Wild claims and plenty of scare tactics are emerging about the dangers of reforming national energy policy. Cooler reasonable heads are essential as we examine our current situation. We need a major new national energy policy for four reasons:
• Energy independence. Currently we are almost completely dependent on other countries for our national oil supply. This is a source of danger on many levels, including the hope of eventually achieving world peace.
• Economic health. Many trillions of dollars are at stake in the global green energy market, and the US can carve out a strong share of that market by creating and supporting millions of new green jobs. Solar and wind create twice as many jobs as conventional energy sources. Currently we are not globally competitive and other nations have moved well ahead of us in this key future economic market.
• Public health and safety. Many deny the reality of climate change, but the evidence is mounting on a daily basis. It is alarming. The consensus of climate scientists and thoughtful leaders throughout the world is that climate change is happening at even faster rates than predicted. We have ten years to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions before the situation may become irreversible. This requires the worst offenders, the US, China, Europe, Japan, and India to take the lead now - by passing major carbon-reducing policies before the December climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December.
• We cannot afford not to change! Opponents who claim that energy reform will cost too much seem to ignore the costs of doing nothing. What will it cost us economically if climate change creates scarce water supplies, stunted crops, flooding of major coastal cities, and extremes of heat, cold, and storms well beyond anything we have ever known? The economic costs of Kentucky’s summer droughts in 2007 and 2008 and last January’s ice storm would pale in comparison to what can be ahead if we ignore the dangers of continuing to increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Yes, electric bills will probably go up some if this legislation passes (Estimates for middle class homes range from $70 to $175 additional per year). Yes, we must nurture small business and it is fair that those businesses with annual incomes less than $500,000 be exempted from cap and trade requirements. And yes, we’d much rather that climate change were not real and that we’d not have to face up to this crisis at all. But face it we must, and soon. We might even discover that we’re happier, healthier, and more united when we get busy doing the right things for our amazing mother Earth!
Sister Claire McGowan OP, is executive director of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future.