Energy revolution—before Katrina goes global

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11430557768438.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘On May 15, 2003, protesters, led by Congo Kinshasa RPCV Mike Tidwell, gathered at the U.S. Capitol for a press conference to denounce the Federal Energy Bill and the fossil fuel subsidies it contains. The group dumped one ton of coal on the Capitol lawn in protest.’);

“Katrina is coming,” was the call to action by Michael Tidwell at the recent Rockford League of Women Voters dinner. In his book, Bayou Farewell, Tidwell told of his experience on a shrimp boat near New Orleans years before the hurricane devastated the city and its surroundings.

For years, shrimpers watched the land sink and marshes and coastal barrier islands, which absorb hurricane-driven punishing waves of water, disappear. They realized that, as the buffering shallows disappeared between New Orleans and the ocean a wave of water could devastate the city.

Katrina was called the worst natural disaster to ever strike the United States. As Tidwell points out, it could be described as the worst human-abetted natural disaster to ever strike America. It resulted from narrowly-conceived flood protection strategies that lined the banks of the Mississippi River over the last 300 years.

Soils carried by flood waters must be trapped and deposited in the shallows around New Orleans to rebuild the land, barrier islands and marshes so the forces of hurricane driven waters are broken before they surge far inland. By ensuring that flood waters were deposited into the deep ocean south of New Orleans, land around the city continued to sink. Engineers understood the dangers and had long lobbied the federal government for funds to create new islands to protect New Orleans.

Adverse impacts of hurricanes were known in advance, but the federal government refused to fund the Coastal 2050 plan. Mike Tidwell labeled President George W. Bush’s call for people to return to New Orleans and help rebuild homes, roads, bridges and schools insane when not coupled with an effort to rebuild the barrier islands. He fears the president is blinded by an anti-environment ideology.

Tidwell links his concerns to another plan the Bush administration has refused to endorse, the Kyoto Protocol. Bush administration scientists acknowledge global warming is accelerating and that it results from the widespread use of fossil fuels.

When sinking land is combined with rising ocean levels, the net effect is to have a 3-foot relative rise in the ocean. Every major coastal city in the world is threatened by Katrina-type damage from rising sea levels. Over the years, both hurricane wind speeds and storm duration have doubled. With global warming, we can expect more long-lasting, intense storms. Tidwell cites climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen’s warning that we have the next decade to begin slowing global warming before its most damaging aspects become unstoppable.

We need efficiency, renewable energy and renewable fuels now. With better energy choices, global warming, acid rain, mercury poisoning, nitrogen accumulation, oil wars and asthma rates will all decrease. Since Washington refuses to change its course, Tidwell believes that change must come from the public. He urges citizens to let our leaders know that we are tired of their detachment from reality and demand that they act now to change the laws.

We need a revolution in energy policy now. In the words of Mike Tidwell—Katrina is coming to us all.

From the March 22-28, 2006, issue

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