Saturday, March 18, 2017


Desiree for the win!

Sometimes there is a comment that is so good that it warrants its own post. Desiree's comment on Thursday about environmental issues (I asked if there was reason for hope) is one of those. I shouldn't be surprised of course; Desiree runs her own awesome blog on environmental themes, the Green Momster.

There's definitely hope. I frankly think, though, that the federal government is pretty useless on this issue (not that I'll stop pressing to see positive change). Where I see hope is in the state and local governments (particularly city governments), in the leadership of other countries worldwide, and in, believe it or not, industry. Many city governments are acting decisively to move toward renewable energy (ie. the 2015 Mayors Climate Action Pledge) because they realize that renewables have a short pay-back period and are fiscally responsible. Many industries are also switching to renewables for the same reason -- see Amazon's new solar array in VA. "Wind energy turbine mechanic" is the fastest growing career field in the U.S. The cost of solar panel installations is becoming so low that installers can't keep up with demand -- our main problem is that many of the panels are made in China, because the U.S. has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to renewable R&D. Farmers and landowners in the midwest and west are realizing there's gold in them thar hills, and it comes in the form of wind and solar. Even geothermal energy holds great promise in the U.S.

Unfortunately, our government and many of the largest lobbyists are living in the past. Coal is not coming back -- there's not enough money to be made. The foolish and shortsighted opening of more pipelines throughout the U.S. will not bring permanent jobs. As climate change progresses, and it will, we're going to see loss of habitat as you mentioned (we're already in the Anthropocene, the 6th extinction event). But we're also going to see many more environmental refugees due to sea level rise and water scarcity (Kiribati is the canary in the coal mine). 

The only fossil fuel we need to expand, slightly, right now is natural gas, and that's only as a gap fuel. But natural gas needs to be much more severely regulated than is currently the case (see the "Chaney loophole" for fracking in the Safe Drinking Water Act). Renewables make sense for the environment AND for the economy, and that's why I feel hopeful.

Interesting observation while driving through W. Virginia last fall my sister-in-law reflected that aside from the worlds largest Trump signs littering the landscape there were wind turbines everywhere she looked. When I drive fifteen minutes north of our house in Durham there are several large, former tobacco, fields covered in solar panels as far as one can see. Renewable energy is everywhere.

I live in the country and if someone isn't driving a Prius (for gas efficiency) they are driving a Subaru (for safety). Obviously there are the requisite pick up trucks since we live among horse farms and there is a need to haul things but people care about energy efficiency. The good thing is that businesses are not going to retool their factories to make less efficient appliances (Energy Star program is going away) or vehicles that get worse mileage as consumers demand better and improving technologies and will continue to drive those industries to improve, with or without government watchdogs.
I responded to Disiree’s post but it was apparently too late to be published
Here is the post.
Desiree, I agree on all that you have said. Today in the US twice as many Americans are working in the alternative energy sector than in the fossil fuel sector. This is a result of, as much as was possible, a bunch of incentives. Without these incentives, without nationally funded R&D, and without regulations on the fossil fuel industries we will fall behind in our global responsibility.
The world will not wait for us. We can look at things that others are doing right.
As in health care, alternative energy is being addressed by most nations. Universal healthcare and a single payer system has kept good health universally affordable.

The world's big idea often is to go small, as you point out. Included in their plans is to bring energy creation and storage to be more of a local responsibility. We can include in are plans unique solutions to be used building by building, home by home, county by county, city by city and neighborhood by neighborhood. Already there are blocks of neighbors organizing to build solar systems and storage to be shared. They will be up against the large utilities and need help. This is where I get discouraged. The mostly hidden conservative in me cries out to make energy local. The savings in distribution seems to make sense. I know to succeed we will need powerful allies. I do not think we can look to short-term thinkers in the Republican leadership nor can we expect industry to voluntarily move to a more efficient delivery of energy.

We will have to move the silent majority’s fears from Trumped up threats to real concerns. The Republican “ base” seems to be unconvinced of the all the real threats to their health heir wealth and their security.

Thanks Mark! I enjoyed reading John and Christine's comments too (love my subaru :) Fortunatley, there are Republicans fighting the good fight on climate change. Unfortunately, they're often drowned out. Bob Inglis is the standard-bearer for Republicans who care about climate change, but Katherine Hayhoe and several others are speaking up. There was a great article in the W. Post the other day about the "Noah's Ark" caucus in congress -- members have to join in pairs of Republicans and Democrats -- great idea!
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