Posted by: Dr Churchill | July 31, 2013

POTUS Bold Action on Climate Change is just a baby step

The headline from Obama’s recent speech of his decision to cut America’s carbon emissions
by bypassing a dysfunctional Congress and directing the Environmental Protection Agency to implement cleaner air-quality standards, is that when the rules are enacted they would hasten our switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.

Natural gas emits about half the global-warming carbon dioxide of coal, and it is in growing supply in our own country. As a result of market forces alone, coal has already fallen from about one-half to one-third of America’s electric power supply.

But I would not get caught up in the anti-carbon pollution details of President Obama’s speech. I’d focus on the larger messages. The first is that we need to reorder our priorities and start talking about the things that are most consequential for our families, communities, nation and world. That starts with how we’re going to power the global economy at a time when the planet is on track to grow from seven billion to nine billion people in 40 years, and most of them will want to live like Americans, with American-style cars, homes and consumption patterns or as close as resources and local middle class conditions and national aspirations will allow for. And let’s not forget the serious resource constraints we are all facing… Not Malthusian but the next best thing. Limits to Growth and all it will be a tight race, because with limits to growth and economic crises appearing everywhere — we are bent on recurring crashes and economic nightmares. Still we need to improve and Innovate by employing and developing all the new technologies out there.

Because if we don’t find a cleaner way to grow, we’re going to smoke up, choke up and burn up ourselves and this planet so much faster than anyone predicts. The sea level rises will make Noah’s story start looking increasingly like our reality and not like a fairy tale. Recurring floods are already a reality for many parts of the world alternating with devastating droughts and fires.

But before we have to worry about the air quality over cities like Los Angeles and Beijing, or about traffic jams on the highways stretching from La-La land to Longbeach — we best consider the rising seas seriously. After Sandy superstorm, we need to seek shelter. Because all of our coastal cities will be floaters sooner than 2050 if the trends go unchecked. And so goes for our low lying farm lands. And all of our Utilities and Infrastructures…. will be underwater, serving the fish.

So “In reducing coal’s historic dominance” the President is formalizing a market trend that has been already taking shape. His bigger message, though, was that no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum, it’s useful for the nation to discuss, debate and consider a strategy for climate change. The consequences of inaction are potentially greater than all the other noise out there.

Sadly, many Republican “leaders” rejected Obama’s initiative, claiming it would cost jobs.

Really?

Tell that to Germany, Japan, and South Korea, as well as China, that all have created a robust Green Economy and millions of Green Jobs thriving on the Renewable Energy Future offering them a wealth of jobs today.

Phasing out coal for cleaner natural gas as a step improvement, and clearly shifting more Utilities to renewable resources will transport us to the 21st century in a hurry.
Other changes, such as electrifying the automobile fleet, and also all the big trucks and ships and centralized business of transport implements and vehicles is a no-brainer, no-lose, net-win that you can’t fight with a straight face.

But, remember, natural gas is a fine gift to our country if, and only if, we extract it in a way that does not leak methane into the atmosphere (methane being worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming) and if, and only if, we extract it in ways that don’t despoil land, air or water. The Environmental Parliament is working, to ensure both.

And there is one more huge caveat: We also have to ensure that cheap natural gas displaces coal directly and fast yet only as a step fuels because we do not want it to become our fall back reality. Simply we have to treat it as an intermediary that doesn’t displace energy efficiency and the Great Shift towards renewables, like solar and wind, so that natural gas becomes a bridge to a clean energy future — and not a ditch to crash into.

It would be ideal to do this through legislation and not the E.P.A. fiat, but Conservative Republicans have blocked that route, which is pathetic because the best way to do it is with a Republican idea from the last Bush administration: a national clean energy standard for electricity generation — an idea the G.O.P. only began to oppose when Obama said he favored it.

Such a standard would say to every utility: “Your power plants can use any fuel and technology you want to generate electricity as long as the total amount of air pollutants and greenhouse gases they emit (in both fuel handling and its electricity conversion) meet steadily increasing standards for cleaner air and fewer greenhouse gases. If you want to meet that standard with natural gas, sequestered coal, biomass, hydro, solar, wind or nuclear, be our guest. Let the most cost-effective clean technology win.” A Darwinian level playing field is where all Energies compete on their own merit without subsidies of any kind…

By raising the standard a small amount every year, we’d ensure continuous innovation in clean power technologies — and jobs that are a lot better than coal mining. You can’t make an appliance, power plant, factory or vehicle cleaner without making it smarter — with smarter materials, smarter software or smarter designs. Nothing would do more to ensure America’s national security, stimulate more good jobs and global exports — the whole world needs these technologies — than a national clean energy standard. And, of course, the climate would hugely benefit.

Improving our energy system plays to our innovation strength. Clinging to our fossil-fuel past plays to the strengths of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Not exactly beacons of Democracy …  those three — right?

So why would we keep on doing that?

Why would the G.O.P. support this daft position?

It’s already losing young voters. And for all those Republican lawmakers that signed the Koch Brothers pledge to not support any Climate Change or Sustainable Legislation — let’s have a rethink. You can support this without losing the money from the Koch Brothers lobbying machine. Time to wake up was yesterday morning — but next best time is this morning. You got this sunshine? … OK?

Reality Check Question: How many college campuses today have environmental clubs and how many have coal clubs?

“The Germans and the Chinese are already in this clean energy race, and we’re still just talking about it,” says Hal Harvey, the chief executive of Energy Innovation.

As for me the Chief Political question is: Do we want to control our energy future, or continue to buy from other countries and subjugate our Security to them ?

Yours,
Pano

PS:
POTUS can do better than this and soon He will…
Yet we need to create Progress and Support for the existing means and ways to change our reliance on King Coal.
For now we are moving in the Right Direction.


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