Posts Tagged ‘alternative energy’
World environmental news includes dramatic evidence of rising sea levels, acidifying oceans, and shrinking arctic sea ice as well as extreme weather events, massive wildfires, increased flooding, and intense droughts. These conditions threaten people worldwide, causing deaths, spreading disease, and worsening air quality. They also cost Americans billions of dollars.
The most respected scientific bodies identify the reality of climate change as global warming caused by human activities. Natural fluctuations in weather patterns fail to account for the growing intensity of the earth’s warming.
Human-made climate change comes from greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The steadily expanding use of fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and gas, releases most of the heat trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the carbon dioxide concentrations build up, the planet becomes warmer, reaching the hottest levels ever recorded between 2000 and 2010. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher now than at any time in measurable history, and predicted to increase dramatically this century.
Given the international scientific consensus regarding global climate change, one would think that the only real debate centers on how fast warming will occur, and how much damage will be done. But a small number of critics continue to deny that climate change exists or that humans cause it.
The political prospects for addressing climate change seem remote. Skepticism or even flat-out denial of global warming has become part of the Republican Party’s core message. A number of Congressional Republicans refuse to even acknowledge the existence of climate change.
In the 2008 presidential election year, Barack Obama and John McCain agreed that climate change was a critical issue demanding immediate attention. But Congress failed to pass a comprehensive climate bill. Yet, in his first term, Obama reduced greenhouse gas emissions by increasing vehicular fuel efficiency standards and regulating emissions for new power plants.
In the 2012 presidential election cycle, Obama and Mitt Romney barely discussed climate change. Now Obama has vowed to make climate change a priority of his second administration. Two big climate demonstrations, the one that occurred in mid-February and the upcoming one on Earth Day (April 22), aim to pressure President Obama to show much stronger environmental leadership.
A recent Pew poll revealed that by a 54 percent to 34 percent margin Americans favor developing alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydrogen rather than increased production of fossil fuels. Additionally, 62 percent favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change while 28 percent oppose this.
Power plants, especially coal-fired ones, account for 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emission, not to mention thousands of deaths, heart attacks, and asthma cases every year. Transitioning to a new energy system based on climate-safe alternatives entails a long term commitment and public support. The fossil fuel industry, after all, ranks as the richest business enterprise in history and holds enormous political clout.
The President can use the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act to cut greenhouse gas emissions by regulating all, not just new, power plants, and thereby reduce power plant emissions 26 percent by 2020. He can also deny the Keystone XL pipeline permit. A much more difficult task involves switching the subsidies from traditional to renewable fuels.
Increasing solar, wind, and other renewable sources, improving energy efficiency, and researching experimental technologies can smooth the path to a low-carbon economy. Conservation practices by individuals and businesses provide another way to reduce consumption.
Addressing global warming requires cutting pollution and expanding clean energy. The Obama administration has taken some steps in that direction, but clearly much more needs to be done.
Ralph Scharnau teaches U. S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University. His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque. Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
President Obama supports tax breaks for wind energy.
You do the math.
Marcos Moulitsas posted about it yesterday.
Iowa is quite competitive this year. [Click here to see the trendlines on DailyKos]. So in an election where marginal parochial issues may make a difference, it’s surprising that ethanol isn’t center stage. It’s wind power.
The lines are now drawn on a political hot button in Iowa: a lucrative tax break for wind energy.
Mitt Romney is against it, President Barack Obama favors it — opposing stances that could have political and economic implications in Iowa, which has more wind energy jobs than any other state in the nation.
And it’s not just Democrats attacking Romney for his position.
Top GOP leaders in Iowa — including Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and the entire congressional delegation — champion the tax break as a vital economic development tool.
Monday evening, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham said the position Team Romney laid out “shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It’s the wrong decision.” Latham called for Romney to re-evaluate.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday he considers the tax credit he authored to be a tremendous success, but he has been talking with wind backers “about options that include a multi-year phase-out along with tax reform.”
I wanted to provide you with an update on my continued advocacy on behalf of Iowa’s renewable energy industry and in particular for the wind energy industry. Wind energy manufacturers in our state provide good paying jobs for thousands of Iowans and have made significant contributions to our state being the second largest producer of wind energy in the country.
This is why I was so pleased to recently be named a USA Wind Jobs Champion by the 2,400 member companies of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The award recognizes work to create and sustain U.S. jobs in the wind energy industry and its manufacturing supply chain. I was pleased to accept this award instead for the hard-working employees of the wind energy manufacturing companies in Iowa.
To highlight the need to reauthorize the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy, I used the award as an opportunity to visit Siemens Wind in Fort Madison and Acciona Turbines in West Branch to talk about the importance of wind energy to Iowa with the employees there. I’ve been working to bring attention to the PTC and push the Majority in the House to bring up legislation to reauthorize it and a variety of other renewable energy support like for biodiesel. Unfortunately many wind manufacturers are already seeing orders drop off as a result of inaction on the PTC.
Support for the wind energy industry is going to be critical for our continued move away from imported fossil fuels and energy independence for the US. I’m happy Iowa is playing such a critical role in this new beginning for renewable energy which is continuing to provide more homegrown power for Iowa homes and businesses every day. I will continue to work to highlight the importance of wind energy for Iowa’s economy and jobs.
Iowa’s Second District