America’s Pathetic, Negligent Energy Policy

America’s national energy policy is not green; it is dark & oily, backward, cloddish, and out of touch with the realities of today’s world of modern technology. It’s archaic.

Congress has at least one foot in the wrong century. This is the 21st not the 20th.

As policy stands today, the U.S. government promotes fossil fuels because the leading politicians of America have a love affair with fracking, which process forcibly pressures toxic chemicals deep underground to retrieve difficult to access oil and gas, a short-lived energy solution, that may be polluting underground water resources all across the country. Nobody will know for sure until it’s too late.

As it goes, America’s national energy plan is all about fossil fuels, fossil fuels, and more fossil fuels trumpeted by everybody from President Obama to, well… to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK).

There is a better way…

A much, much, much better way, i.e., renewable energy, creates high-paying jobs as well as incrementally adding to tax revenues whilst symbiotically harmonizing with nature, an esprit de corps of clean wholesome energy, the polar opposite of fracking, which scrapes the bottom of the natural resource barrel for sludgy, stinky, filthy, sooty, CO2-emitting gunk.

For a better way, Burlington, the largest city (pop. 42,000) in the state of Vermont, is 100% renewable energy, wind, water, and biomass. “With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski 1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city’s edge,” Wilson Ring, 100% of Power for Vermont City now Renewable, Associated Press, Sept. 15, 2014.

As follows, the city, which is characterized by its blend of old New England charm, arts, culture and nature, leads the country in renewable energy.

What if Burlington’s vision of self-determination for conversion to renewables spreads all across the land?

It’s already starting to happen but not without serious challenges and interference by fossil fuel/right wing interests.

In 2007 North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to adopt renewable energy standards, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards law. To date, the results are spectacular. The state is producing cheaper, safer energy whilst generating good, high-paying jobs and establishing new sources of tax revenues. That’s prosperity the old fashioned American way!

In 2013, the state was second to California for solar-power capacity. And, North Carolina’s wind resources are some of the best in the East. In some counties, wind farms are already the largest taxpayers. Who needs casinos?

Notwithstanding Carolina’s green success, North Carolina Republicans, led by state Rep. Mike Hager, majority whip, in concert with the Americans for Prosperity, a super PAC funded by the Koch brothers, attempted to roll back the clean energy legislation. They desperately tried to kill the goose that lays golden eggs for society in order to selfishly benefit by society’s loss. Thus, they risk persona non grata status, pariahs who prey upon the weak and defenseless and the simpleminded. But, that’s another story.

As of recently, regarding right wing attacks against renewables in Carolina, here’s the scoop: “The group plans to continue its efforts to repeal North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, part of a nationwide campaign by AFP [Americans for Prosperity] and the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council to push back against state laws that require increased production of energy from renewable sources,” Lucy Butcher, AFP to Continue Push for Rollback of Renewable Energy Program in Short Session, The Carolina Mercury, May 13, 2014.

Therefore, by definition, Americans for Prosperity is categorically un-American. How else judge attempts to derail high-paying job creation and expansion of industry and the tax base for states. That’s diametrically opposed to the spirit of American capitalism, isn’t it?

Astonishingly, Americans for Prosperity promotes anti-prosperity.

Meanwhile, and in spite of futile attempts at interference by Americans for Prosperity, North Carolina is becoming a clean energy powerhouse. Of the 30 utility-scale projects that were built in the Southeast in 2012, twenty-one were in North Carolina.

Clean energy in North Carolina supports more than 1,200 companies employing more than 15,200 high-paying jobs. Investing in solar creates twice the number of jobs as investing in coal and almost three times more than natural gas.

Also, North Carolina is attracting international companies, now investing and creating jobs in America, companies like Siser, USA, an Italian company, and Schletter, a German company that manufactures solar mounting systems.

Thus, green technology is helping to reverse the 20-year-plus trend of American multinational corporations exporting good, solid American middle class jobs to lousy, low paying/low regulatory countries overseas.

North Carolina’s clean energy policies have generated $1.7 billion in revenue for the state. And, every $1 of incentives for clean energy returned $1.87 in state or local revenue.

North Carolina is setting irresistible standards with green technology that promote growth, high-wage jobs, a strong tax base, as well as attractive to international companies. That’s called prosperity!

Green energy is addictive…

And, other states have gotten into the act; for example, in Nevada the Bureau of Land Management/Nevada has a Renewable Portfolio Standard targeting 25% of total electricity generation from renewable sources by 2025.

And, California has a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard. The state leads the nation in generation of capacity from geothermal, biomass, solar PV, and solar thermal electric, while second in wind and hydropower generation. In turn, the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards accounts for high-quality, high-paying jobs all across the state.

Across the nation, one-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and the solar resources of just seven southwest states could provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity (Worldwatch Institute, September 16, 2014.)

In marked contrast to sentiment on Capitol Hill, red and blue states across the board are turning green according to a recent study, “State Clean Energy Outlook,” by Stanford University and the Hoover Institution. According to George P. Shultz, co-chair of Hoover’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, “There’s no blue or red tinge to it. It’s across the board,” (Wendy Koch, USA Today, Blue and Red States Going Green on Energy Policy, USA Today, Sept. 11, 2014.)

A fair question is: What can be done to hasten the fix for climate change? One obvious answer is for individual states, one-by-one, all across the land, taking charge to convert to renewable energy sources, like North Carolina, California, and Vermont.

But, that state-by-state effort is deliberate and slow and too fragmented to meet the timelines necessary to effectively alleviate the problem in enough time. It is believed that a nationwide coordinated effort is required to stop CO2 becoming a worldwide migraine, already heading substantially over 400 ppm with disastrous consequences this century.

Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions are already flirting with the flashing danger point!

In fact, impending disaster is already evident as per the National Research Council of the National Academies’ extensive 200-pg study, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, Anticipating Surprises, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., December 2013, wherein the report identifies abrupt climate change this century, e.g., (1) Arctic Sea Ice, where abrupt climate change is already well underway, (2) acidification of the ocean, and (3) destabilization of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Even though the climate denial faction in America has done a remarkable job of confusing the public by spending over $100 million to stage authentic-appearing institutes and phony “orgs” and shadowed authors that propagate the airwaves with confusing messages about “recovery of the Arctic sea ice,” etc., the fact remains that CO2 is at 400 ppm and destined to increase further. As a result, millions of years of geologic history tell the sorry tale of disastrous consequences immediately ahead.

There is no denying the obvious as registered in tree rings and ice cores going back in time. But, as stated in the National Academies’ report, today it is different. Climate change today is on steroids compared to the geological records! And, that is hugely problematic.

As explained in the conclusion to the National Research Council of the Academies report: ’“Lacking concerted action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the future climate will be warmer, sea levels will rise, global rainfall patterns will change, and ecosystems will be altered… The current rate of carbon emissions is changing the climate system at an accelerating pace, making the chances of crossing tipping points all the more likely… surprises are indeed inevitable.”

Happening at “an accelerating pace,” as in very fast, as the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier in Greenland flows at nearly three times its rate in the 1990s (I. Joughin, et al, Brief Communication: Further Summer Speedup of Jakobshavn Isbrae, The Cryosphere, 8, 209-214, 2014.)

And, in South America, the World Bank has expressed deep concerns about shortages of water resources for more than 100 million people as a result of one-half of the Andes’s glaciers gone over the past 30 years. It only took three decades, whisking thru geologic time, to lose thousands of years of ice!

According to a Special Report in The Economist d/d June 16, 2012, The Melting North: “There is no serious doubt about the basic cause of the warming. It is, in the Arctic as everywhere, the result of an increase in heat-trapping atmospheric gases, mainly carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned… A heat map of the world, colour-coded for temperature change, shows the Arctic in sizzling maroon.”

Who said global warming is cooling down?

The global warming/climate change bullet train has already left the station, as we stand dumbfounded on the platform, watching and waiting, for what?

Craziness permeates the political class; it’s as if some kind of an insane death wish, or longing for pain, has locked into the national psyche because nobody is screaming and fighting to get off the deathly tumbril of fossil fuels. Contrariwise, U.S. energy policy is locked into the “fracking” scene of “independence by oblivion.” As a matter of fact, America’s fossil fuel “energy independence” program, given enough time, is equivalent to scorched earth tactics used during war.

According to the National Academies’ report, “lacking concerted action by the world’s nations,” surprises are indeed inevitable, which really means surprises are coming soon because there are no signs of “concerted action by the world’s nations.” Not even a hint.

In that regard, the youth of America are already in the forefront of a movement to fix the climate issue. The following video from James Hansen explains that movement, and it is worth mentioning his discussion in the film about Congress as the main obstacle to getting off the CO2 bandwagon.

The short film, beautifully orchestrated, is introduced as follows: “Youth around the world are asking government to protect our atmosphere as a Public Trust resource for all generations.”

Oddly enough, as time passes, it becomes increasingly obvious that the United States Congress is standing alone on an isolated island of refusal to address humankind’s most pressing problem, which is a planet about to go ballistic.

Paradoxically, and mournfully, they’re zealous about regional wars where people are wholesale killed but woefully, wretchedly helpless at addressing an impending extinction of species.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com.

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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