Written by Peter Gollon Friday, 21 August 2009 00:00
Burdened as we on Long Island are by high energy costs and dirty air, we should applaud the recent passage by the House of Representatives of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). ACES sets forth clean energy and efficiency goals for America to achieve - goals that have already been reached and surpassed by other countries around the world. The release of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum products, and even “clean” natural gas) has started a process of rapid global climate change. As this continues it will have an increasingly adverse impact nationally (more frequent and severe heat waves such as the one in the summer of 2006 that killed several hundred people nationwide, more and stronger hurricanes in the southeast, reduced snowfall in the northeast ski areas) and locally (spread of southern insect pests northward, increased erosion of our beaches and shores). Impact in the rest of the world will be at least as severe. To limit this change, the United States and other industrial nations must rapidly reduce their fossil fuel use in favor of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
There are economic benefits to be gained by reducing our imports of foreign oil, and environmental benefits from not damaging wilderness to drill for oil or gas, or from destroying mountains and streams to dig coal. While we don’t know what the market price of oil or coal will be in five or 15 years, we do know that the wind and the sun will continue to be free.
It’s not a question of whether we make the transition to renewable energy; the question is when we do so. If we make a strong and determined national effort now, the United States can be a leader in renewable energy technology. If we wait, we will instead be importing technology from the Chinese, who are making the development and installation of massive amounts of wind generated electrical capacity a national priority.
For these reasons, it is important that as we commend Senator Schumer and especially Senator Gillibrand (who sits on the important Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) for their support thus far, we also urge them to work to strengthen the bill to further encourage efficient energy use, to hasten the development and installation of renewable and non-polluting energy sources, and to clean up or close the dirtiest coal-fired power plants.
Long Island Sierra Club