Thursday, January 24, 2008

Support the “real McCoy” renewable energy standard

Utahns are lucky. Our state has an abundance of waste-free, carbon-free, renewable sources of energy. Yet as our air gets dirtier and our climate hotter and drier, just 0.5% of our energy generation comes from renewable sources.

We can and must do better. As the Utah State Legislative Session begins this week we have a chance to do just that. This session, Sen. Scott McCoy (D-Salt Lake) is sponsoring a bill that sets a standard of 25% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2025, while also promising renewable energy development in rural Utah. 26 states already have similar standards, though none have ever been proposed in Utah.

Unfortunately, Rocky Mountain Power--the state's largest electric utility--is pushing a competing bill that could stifle renewable energy development in Utah. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), puts Rocky Mountain Power in the driver's seat while giving the utility every opportunity and excuse to put the brakes on actually delivering renewable energy to Utahns.

Join HEAL Utah, the Sierra Club, and others next Wednesday for a citizen lobby day and press conference to support the "real McCoy" renewable energy standard and help us show the legislature that Utahns want meaningful renewable energy legislation now.

What: “Real McCoy” Renewable Energy Citizen Lobby Day and Press Conference
Where: Utah State Capitol Rotunda
When: Wednesday, January 30th
11:45am - 12:30pm Press Conference
9:30am - 11:30am Citizen Lobbying (see below for details)

Even though 92% of Utahns polled support increased government incentives and investment in renewable energy, Rocky Mountain Power's bill is nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing that could stall renewable energy development in Utah for decades.

While the utility's bill sets an "aspirational goal" of 20% renewable energy by 2025, it is entirely voluntary and up to Rocky Mountain Power's whim to comply or not. Incredibly, the proposal includes no intermediate benchmarks or plan to go from where we are today at 0.5% renewable energy to the 20% goal. And, it would allow dirty power like nuclear and coal with carbon sequestration to reduce the renewable energy goal.

Worst of all, the bill guarantees Rocky Mountain Power a monopoly on Utah's wind and solar resources by preventing small-scale renewable energy developers from entering the market. That means the businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs that are actually doing the work right now to deliver Utah's renewable resources to Utahns would no longer be allowed to compete.

That's like Congress deciding that because GM manufactures Hummers, they should be the only car company allowed to put hybrids on the road.

Rocky Mountain Power builds large, centralized coal and gas-fired power plants, which does not necessarily make them the best company to bring renewables to the market. So why should the State Legislature guarantee Rocky Mountain Power a monopoly on that market? It's an outrageous proposal that flies in the face of the free-enterprise, entrepreneurial spirit our elected leaders claim to hold dear.

Thankfully, Sen. McCoy's bill is the real deal. It helps identify where the state's best renewable energy resources are located and establishes an enforceable renewable energy standard of 25% to make sure those resources are actually developed. The Real McCoy doesn't include the handouts, caveats, and loopholes that pervade Rocky Mountain Power's bill. In other words, it delivers renewable energy to Utahns and creates a market to attract clean energy jobs and investment to our state.

Can you join us next Wednesday, January 30th, to stand with Sen. McCoy andsupport his plan for Utah's renewable energy future? We need your support to make sure the Legislature does more than pay lip service to renewable energy this legislative session.

To participate in our citizen lobby day, please contact or and look for the HEAL Utah/Sierra Club table in the East Building cafeteria any time between 9:30 and 11:30am (you don't need any experience-we'll give you pointers and a quick tutorial when you arrive at the check-in table). And make sure to join us in the Capitol Building Rotunda at 11:45am for the press conference.


Anonymous said...

Environmentalism is Dead

For many years I’ve harbored a nagging sense of futility in what I’ll call my “environmentalism”. For every plea to help forestall another environmental catastrophe comes the growing, somewhat melancholy, understanding that long-term solutions don’t lie in constantly reacting to current crisis.

The home improvement project will have to wait until after we put out the fire. But there’s always a fire.

That there is another way to look at what we call environmentalism is the subject of the book Breakthrough by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

“Complaint-based” environmentalism focuses on the fatalism of an overpopulated world constantly in the throes of the next ongoing environmental catastrophe; that ultimately, in terms of our energy-intensive modern society, things are as good a they’re going to get and will naturally get worse much faster for those it was never that good in the first place. It is a belief in limits, NIMBYism (or here), and anti-growth, dooming the impoverished of the world to perpetual struggle.

Based on Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs the “birth” of environmentalism grew out of the vast economic boom in the wake of World War II. With affluence came environmentalism.

An alternative view – the death to environmentalism – is a fundamental shift in focus and with it the serious notion that this world and universe are truly a place of abundance, if we only learn how to tap into it. From one “energy order” to the next, there is a place at the table for all 7+ billion of us (foregoing, for the moment, the second law of thermodynamics). Despite the hint of the metaphysical, it’s as fundamental as E=MC2, and perhaps as radical an idea now as Einstein’s eloquent expression of the visible universe was in 1905 (and then with general relativity in 1915).

In their 2005 book The Bottomless Well (The twilight of fuel, the virtue of waste, and why we will never run out of energy), Peter Huber and Mark Mills reinforce this idea by presenting energy not as a problem, but as a solution. The assertion is that both the Cornucopians (less is more, efficiency is the answer) and Lethargists (less is really less, we are at the end of the energy boom) are wrong. Energy, while abundant – even “infinite” – is not the key. What will unlock this inexhaustible source of energy is the logic of power.

To paraphrase on old saying, what does any of this have to do with the cost of carbon in China?

Global Warming, Politics, and Environmentalism

In a recent post on Breakthrough blog, the authors make the argument that the growing realization that global warming is here and needs to be dealt with will force a political realignment that cuts across non-traditional lines of opposition, centered around what we mean when we say environmentalism. Limits or growth, expansion or retreat, fatalistic or progressive. To get to a new world order takes more than just tearing down the old world order. You have to grow the new one at the same time. And the engine of that growth will come from a new environmentalism of global cooperation, carbon equity, and technological innovation.

The only way to get global cooperation is if everyone prospers. And the way everyone prospers is through carbon equity.

But what if you’re just a little fatalistic by nature? I cut my environmentalists chops on the likes Paul Ehrlich and Jeremy Rifkin, or later, James Kunstler and Richard Heinberg. I have a firm foundation in limits and doomsday. I’m loads of fun at parties.

Even the proponents of the “new” environmentalism accept that by staying on our present course we are headed for a dead end.

There are two ways a society can collapse: By putting on blinders to the world around them, failing to understand or accept the impending catastrophe and thus doing nothing about it until, perhaps, it is much too late; history abounds with such examples.
Or by seizing on a fatalistic premonition of doomsday and relentlessly focusing on it, retreating into fear, and unwittingly hastening its arrival. Contracted thinking in both instances.

The prosperity of the post war expansion I grew up in (I’m a young boomer) drove the concept of environmentalism, and it will be through a changed environmentalism that drives a new prosperity.

By shifting focus, and thus our actions, through innovative and creative thinking, as evidenced by this very blog, and holding to a firm belief in progress, that is the key to a sustainable and prosperous future – for everyone. It is, then, the death of environmentalism.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have links to the text of either of these bills? I looked at and searched for senator McCoy but didn't find any bills related to energy (renewable or otherwise). I'd love to read the text of his bill as well as the Rocky Mountain "alternative."

Anonymous said...

Don't about this bill passing, My sources tell me that as soon as it hits the house, it will die a very quick death.

VilaD said...

Senator McCoy's renewable energy bill is in the "request" process right now.

Senator Bramble's bill is also currently in the request process.

I'm not sure if there is anywhere on-line to be able to read these bill proposals. I know that once they have been introduced and and assigned a number, then they can be accessed on-line.