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A summer of energy
fairs and politics

By Dave Duffy

Dave Duffy

Issue #88 • July/August, 2004

There are many alternative energy fairs and expos going on all over America this summer. Some of the shows are more than a decade old but many are new—a response to environmental concern about the use of fossil fuels and this nation's overreliance on foreign oil, especially in this time of war in the Middle East. BHM has already attended one show in Oregon as an exhibitor, and we will be exhibitors at at least four others.

Some of these shows are top-loaded with politics, with the organizers inviting as keynote speakers various leftist extremists and antiwar people who have little to do with alternative energy. So if you're a conservative or libertarian, as I am, you have to ignore the leftist politics and engage those interested in alternative energy.

These alternative energy shows are sort of like the preparedness shows of a few years ago, which relied on right wing extremist speakers to attract a crowd, while most of the exhibiting and selling was done by ordinary folks, just like at these alternative energy shows.

It got me to thinking back over the last 15 years about all the expos and shows where this magazine sought to purvey preparedness ideas. The shows were varied, including the many preparedness and survival shows leading up to Y2K, the giant ecological shows that spawned whole new periodicals like E and Garbage, huge health shows where every charlatan known to man seemed to be hawking miracle cancer cures, and these alternative energy shows. And you know, I can't think of a show that didn't have as speakers two or more extremists who could draw a crowd simply because they had an extreme point of view.

It's a natural thing, I think, for people to want to be preached at and scolded by some fierce looking, self assured nut with a big voice. It doesn't matter whether it's in church on Sunday or at one of these shows. In fact, most of the shows, at least during the speeches by the key speakers, had the air of a religious gathering. The faithful would seethe as the speaker ranted with self-righteous anger. Once the speech was over, the audience became regular folks, touring the exhibits, chatting, and buying goods like they were at the shopping mall.

During the heyday of the preparedness shows, some exhibitors approached me and asked if I would help them start a preparedness type show that didn't highlight the right-wing extremists as the key speakers. They had gotten tired of the media putting these extremists on the evening news of whatever city the show happened to be in, then painting all the exhibitors with the same broad extremist brush.

But I always declined because I had observed that whenever a new preparedness style show did start up without a major extremist attraction, the show flopped. But when they got a keynote extremist, success invariably followed. It was not the publicity the keynote extremists brought so much as the faithful who wanted to be preached at. I wanted no part of either show.

And so now we have the alternative energy shows, which have been around as long as the preparedness shows. And they seem to have the same formula for success: extremist keynote speakers (this time from the left) who can draw the faithful. Once the speeches are over, however, you can't tell the faithful apart from the faithful at the preparedness shows. They too go about touring the exhibits, chatting, and buying goods.

So I invite BHM's readers to attend one of these energy shows. Ignore the leftist speakers just as you would ignore the far right speakers. The exhibits are still great: solar, wind, hydro, hybrid car, hydrogen fuel, etc. You can also visit our booth and chat with us, take advantage of the great show specials we always have, and buy me a beer.

Here are the details on the shows where we'll be in 2004:

• June 18-20: Custer, Wisconsin (7 miles east of Stevens Point, 125 miles north of Madison), Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, Tel.: 715-592-6595, Website: This one rivals California's SolFest with more than 120 solar and wind powered displays. We typically have our booth among the Amish exhibitors, because they are friendly, knowledgeable people.

• Aug. 5-7: Flagstaff, Arizona, The Southwest Sustainability Expo, Tel.: 800-925-0583, Website:

• Aug. 21-22: Hopland, California (90 miles north of San Francisco), SolFest, Tel.: 707-744-2017, Website: SolFest is located on Real Goods' 12-acre Solar Living Institute grounds in the northern California redwoods. This is an extraordinarily beautiful area. The redwoods alone make the trip worthwhile.

• Sept. 24-26: Fredericksburg, Texas, Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair, Tel.: 512-326-3391, Website:

Read More by Dave Duffy

Read More Opinion / Commentary

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