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A strong energy bill -- now more than ever

Stefanie Spear  |  06/16/10 @ 9:00am  |  Posted in Clean energy

(The following was submitted to GCBL by Stefanie Spear of Expedite Renewable Energy and the EcoWatch Journal.)

You don't have to look far to understand the importance of transitioning U.S. energy generation to cleaner, renewable sources of power. More than 50,000 gallons of oil a day are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP-created oil rig disaster, and reaching marshlands and shorelines along the gulf coast heading toward the Atlantic Ocean with 11 oil rig workers dead. In West Virginia, 29 coal miners died after a huge explosion at a Massey Energy mine in April. The human, environmental and economic impact of the current forms of energy is devastating communities, livelihoods, the environment and economy.

There is no doubt that a comprehensive energy bill is critical for the future of our nation. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), a comprehensive energy and climate bill, in June 2009. The American Clean Energy and Security Act includes the following:

  • Requires electric utilities to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
  • Subsidizes new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including renewable energy ($90 billion in new subsidies by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
  • Protects consumers from energy price increases. According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the reductions in carbon pollution required by the legislation will cost American families less than a postage stamp per day.
  • Sets a target for reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. The bill requires a 17 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 decreasing U.S. emissions by about 80 percent by 2050. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as efforts to prevent tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.
  • Includes a renewable electricity standard requiring each electricity provider which supplies more than 4 million MWh to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind, solar and geothermal) by 2020. There is a provision whereby 5 percent of this standard can be met through energy efficiency savings, as well as an additional 3 percent with certification of the governor of the state in which the provider operates.
  • Provides for modernization of the electrical grid.
  • Provides for expanded production of electric vehicles.
  • Mandates significant increases in energy efficiency in buildings, home appliances and electricity generation.

Unfortunately the energy bill has been stalled in the Senate for nearly a year, with renewed interest over the past few weeks. The newly revised American Power Act (the official name of the Senate energy and climate bill), in the wake of the oil disaster, recently added provisions giving states the right to veto offshore oil drilling in a neighboring state and requires the U.S. Interior Department to conduct a study to determine which states could be economically and environmentally affected by an oil spill. The Senate version also places more limits on carbon trading than the climate bill passed by the House and virtually eliminates the chance of a secondary carbon market.

With millions of gallons of escaping oil in the gulf destroying wildlife, blackening beaches and threatening livelihoods, the time to muster the necessary public and political will for real change might never be better. With a shrinking window to pass climate legislation this year, it is critical that the senate act now and pass a strong climate bill that will encourage the transition to cleaner, renewable source of energy generation.

Contact your senators and make your voice heard. To find your U.S. senators, visit www.senate.gov. In addition to contacting your senators, now is the time for major deployment of energy efficiency at every home and business. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the twin pillars of sustainable energy policy. Both resources must be developed aggressively if we are to reduce carbon dioxide and rely on safer forms of power. Efficiency is essential to slowing the energy demand growth so that rising clean energy supplies can make deep cuts in fossil fuel use.

There are many simple and affordable ways to reduce your energy usage. But to get started you first need to know exactly how much energy you're using. For example, take a moment to pull out your most recent electric bill and see how many kilowatt hours you use per month. Once you know how much you are using, you can begin to implement ways to reduce your usage and monitor it every month when you get your new bill.

Here are just few tips to lowering your kilowatt hours per month. To find more tips simply do an internet search on ways to become more energy efficient. Not only will you reduce the base load need for nonrenewable fossil fuels, but you will save money.

  • Use power stripes to be sure that your standby electronics are truly off and not pulling power from the grid.
  • When purchasing new appliances, be sure to buy Energy Star rated products.
  • Turn it off if it's not in use. This goes for lights and TVs, but also printers, speakers, external hard drives on your computer when not in use.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with new compact florescent bulbs.

Imagine if everyone on your street reduced electricity usage by 300 kilowatt hours per month and then your entire city, state and nation, we could really have a major impact on the amount of electricity needed and the viability of renewable energy generation.

Stefanie Penn Spear Moreland Hills, Ohio

Stefanie Spear, president of Expedite Renewable Energy and founder and executive director of EcoWatch, has been working on environmental issues for more than 20 years. Spear was instrumental in helping write the City of Cleveland's wind turbine zoning legislation and is working to encourage other Northeast Ohio communities to pass similar legislation. Spear is actively lobbying for the passage of other policies that will help ignite the transition to renewable energy sources and create green jobs. Spear is on the Green Team at Fairmount Temple and Village of Moreland Hills. She is on the advisory committee for GreenCityBlueLake and Tri-C's Green Academy and Center for Sustainability, and steering committee member for the Advanced Energy Generation for Sustainable Cleveland 2019. To contact Stefanie Spear, visit www.EcoWatch.org or www.ExpediteRenewableEnergy.com.

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