Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A clean energy future could be closer than you think

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 11:49 AM

click to enlarge wind_turbines.jpeg
Imagine how nice it must feel these days to be John Gregg.

You know John Gregg: he’s the mustachioed Democrat who will be running against Mike Pence in November’s election. So far it appears Gregg doesn’t have to do much of anything to come off looking better than his competition. All that’s required of him, besides offering a ritualistic “tut-tut” here and a “tut-tut” there, is to otherwise keep his trap shut.

Mike Pence is doing a good job of demolishing his political career all by himself.

We know how Pence’s continued opposition to LGBT civil rights has created a robust alliance between Indiana’s business community, including the state’s Chamber of Commerce, and LGBT activists. Pence apparently considers having cornered the votes of fundamentalist wedding photographers and bakers a profile in courage.

Now it looks as though he’s managed to bring Indiana’s environmental groups and its utility industry together. Representatives from both groups have reportedly told state officials they want Indiana to come up with its own plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 38 percent by 2030.

But this would mean accepting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a federal strategy aimed at fighting climate change by weaning America off coal.

Indiana is reliant on coal for the lion’s share of our energy. Not only that, Mike Pence is a longstanding protege of fossil-fuel tycoons the Koch brothers. Hence, Pence has consistently refused to so much as even acknowledge the validity of trying to kick Indiana’s coal habit. He says it’ll be too expensive — an assertion the EPA disputes.

The shame in all this is that fighting over how much coal Indiana uses appears to be an increasingly retrograde exercise. A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds that technology is now available to cut America’s carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 78 percent within the next 15 years.

“There is an opportunity to start very serious (emissions) mitigation right now,” Alexander MacDonald, the report’s lead author, told Scientific American. “The idea that wind and solar are too intermittent, or wind and solar are too expensive, or we have to wait for a breakthrough, this study shows that’s not true.”

Making this work, of course, would take a national effort similar in scale to building the interstate highway system. It would create a new, nationwide system of transcontinental transmission lines connected to wind and solar farms, as well as existing nuclear, hydropower and some natural gas power plants.

This would be a massive job — the kind of 21st century infrastructure project the country’s economy needs. It is estimated that in the 1950’s interstate-highway spending accounted for 31 percent of the annual increases in American productivity.

A project like this could set the table for generations to come.

But guess what: For this game-changer to become a reality it will take the support of the nation’s governors. In Indiana, we know Mike Pence will never be that guy.

So what about John Gregg? He’s not saying because he doesn’t have to. Mike Pence keeps making things too easy.

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David Hoppe

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