The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Finally, Turning the Heat up on Climate Change

A lot happened while I was unplugged and on vacation during late June. The Muslim Brotherhood offices in Cairo were stormed and then-Egyptian-president Mohammed Morsi’s tenure teetered on dissolution, record heat waves gripped the entire U.S. West resulting in devastating fires and deaths, and the Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, setting the stage for a new era in U.S. gay and lesbian rights. On top of that, President Obama unveiled a dramatic, wide-ranging new climate plan, getting the summer off to a heated start.

While Obama’s climate plan is primarily an assortment of existing programs and initiatives rolled into a new comprehensive package, it is notable on a number of fronts:

  • First, with hopes for substantive, bipartisan Congressional action on climate all but off the table, the president has created a plan that can be instituted by executive action. Most notably, the enforcement of new EPA regulations will all but end new coal-fired power plants in the U.S., significantly impacting the future of the nation’s energy generation.
  • Second, the president went right to the heart of the climate issue, focusing on adaptation and resiliency. As anyone who talks with city planners and leaders of low-lying metro regions (e.g. New York) or with key executives at insurance and reinsurance firms knows, resiliency is not just a topic du jour, but is now central to any future civic and business planning.
  • Third, the initiative establishes the U.S. as a climate leader by firmly putting stakes in the ground. It calls on the U.S. is to double its share of solar and wind by 2020, cut carbon-dioxide emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, dramatically increase building and vehicle efficiency, and more. These types of targets and mandates are exactly what drive innovation and deployment.

So, what’s missing?

First, the president needs to loudly and clearly end his support for an “all of the above” energy approach. For example, we should not be supporting or enabling extreme energy extraction in the form of Arctic drilling or Canadian tar sands. The country simply doesn’t need these sources or the environmental and climate impacts associated with them, and the president should make his intentions absolutely clear by not approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. We need to know which side of the equation the president stands on.

Second, the president’s plan is weak on details around financing mechanisms. While the MLP Parity Act opening master limited partnerships to clean-energy projects will require an act of Congress (one that we actually wouldn’t rule out happening), there are things the president can do in the meantime to support innovative financing of renewables and clean-tech development. Namely, he could instruct the embattled Internal Revenue Service to open up more real estate investment trusts (REITs) for renewables. The IRS has done that for Hannon Armstrong, which manages a sustainable infrastructure REIT, and could rule similarly for other funds.  

Third, the president should establish the groundwork for putting a price on carbon. That could happen, in a somewhat circuitous way, via EPA regulations. But the president should also look at what China is doing as it tests its own cap and trade and carbon tax regimes. We don’t expect a federal carbon tax anytime soon in the U.S., but setting the stage for the eventual introduction of a well-thought-out and effectively planned price on carbon would serve future administrations well.

The fight for energy independence, climate adaptation and resiliency, and the jobs of the future should not be a left or right issue. “I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do, need to call home — because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts,” President Obama pointed out in his climate address at Georgetown University. “And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. Tens of thousands of good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.”

So, we’re off to an incendiary summer in more ways than one, from the Middle East to U.S. forest fires to massive, sometimes uncomfortable shifts (namely for opponents) around climate policy and gay and lesbian rights. And while it’s too soon to know if we are experiencing a climate revolution, in the words of 1960s’ counterculture icon and troubadour Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin'.”

Indeed, perhaps the most important thing President Obama did in laying out his action plan was to put climate back at the forefront of his agenda, and thereby the nation’s. The bottom line, of course, is that actions will speak louder than words. If the president, and the nation, delivers on his promises, it won’t end up just being symbolic. It will represent a major shift towards lower-carbon, more environmentally aligned sources of power, electricity, buildings, and transportation for the U.S. and the world.

Lead image: Spirit of america via Shutterstock

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Hybrid solar minigrid to power Tanzanian island village

Tildy Bayar

A hybrid solar photovoltaic-battery energy storage-diesel minigrid project aims to provide power for around 400 households in the remote island village of Lake Victoria (pictured) in Tanzania. 

World Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy – First Electricity, Then Heating/Cooling, and Finally Transportation

Junko Movellan The exclusive use of energy from renewable resources in at least one sector has now become a feasible goal for 8 countries. Diane Moss, Founding Director of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, discussed this remarkable develop...

Solar power growth impacting UK electricity sector

Diarmaid Williams

Q2 of 2015 saw a large increase in the generation of electricity from solar PV in the UK, with the growth having a significant impact on electricity market prices and other supply factors.

PACE Finance Opening Doors for C&I Solar In California

Susan Kraemer, Correspondent With its excellent renewable policy, California leads the nation in solar. Over the years both the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the California Solar Initiative drove utility scale and residential solar deployment. But w...
Ron Pernick, co-founder and managing director of Clean Edge, Inc. (www.cleanedge.com) and co-author of Clean Tech Nation and The Clean Tech Revolution, is an accomplished market research, publishing, and business development entrepreneur with thre...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

GRC Workshop at Indonesian International Geothermal Convention & Ex...

The Geothermal Conceptual Model & Well Targeting The Geothermal Me...

Grid-connected and Off-grid Photovoltaics

This training covers all aspects of planning, installation, maintenance,...

COMPANY BLOGS

Do Your Goals Match Your Values?

Before you set goals for your company or your personal work performance ...

LSX rises with sustainable wine making in Mexico

his custom LSX solar canopy shades the upper deck organic gard...

A Networking Story

When you’re at a networking event and you meet someone who works i...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS