Finding optimism in a grim situation

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl 
Contributors 

Those focused on a cleaner energy future recognize the current administration’s dedication to fossil fuels as a clear threat. Our search for good news on the climate front at times might appear to be futile or at best a temporary delay in the arrival of depressing results.

According to climate central the average U.S. temperature was 7.3 F above normal this past February with only the Pacific Northwest experiencing cooler than normal temperatures. If the world continues at its current rate of releasing climate changing gases, this year’s February weather could become the norm by 2050. The warmth contributed to the appearance of plant leaves three days earlier than 30 years ago. If emission trends continue the first appearance of leaves in spring could occur 13 days earlier by 2050. Such changes hold major implications for agriculture and ecology.

The prognosis for the planet is grim by all accounts from the scientific community documenting global environmental deterioration. But we can at least look for some good news providing the possibility of a reprieve from the bleak consequences of accelerated fossil fuel consumption unhindered by environmental regulations.

The good news is that 17 House Republicans have signed a resolution acknowledging that there are risks associated with climate change and calling for economically viable policies to address it. This is a public indication that some Republicans are not in a state of denial about the implications of climate change.

Recognizing that action taken now will affect their future, over 1,000 Minnesota youth sent postcards to the Capitol urging passage of a new state renewable energy standard.

In Scientific American, Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed to a Carbon Divided Plan proposed by former Republican leaders, Baker, Schultz and Paulson calling for a gradually increasing carbon tax with dividends paid back to American families to offset their rising energy costs. He suggests the combination of the Republican Carbon Dividend Plan combined with the continuation of the Obama Clean Power Plan would benefit Americans while protecting the global environment.

The solar vision for a clean energy future includes the rapid expansion of the use of electric vehicles. In a counter move, fossil fuels interests are calling for the elimination of state subsidies for electric vehicles and charging stations and pushing for a rollback in energy efficiency mandates on auto emissions. The effort to block the transition to electrified transportation is occurring as battery prices continue to fall and improve its economics.

Recently South Australia experienced a collapse of their electric grid which imposed hardships as factories, businesses and residents all suffered the economic consequences of a grid failure. Studies indicated the problem could have been avoided with an appropriate level of storage capacity.

Elon Musk made headline news when he offered to install 100MW of battery storage for the state within 100 days. If he failed to install a performing system within that time, he would provide it at no cost to the government. If the offer gains approval it should help lower battery costs which in turn will accelerate the transition to a cleaner global energy system.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are the President and Vice President of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

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