The Transition to Renewable Energy
There is currently no strategy or proposal on the table for the needed energy conversion to renewable sources for transportation and energy production. For all the hoopla about Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and given Senator Gore's own background in the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal Government, there is little in the way of concrete policy proposals that have been introduced as a cornerstone of a new energy policy.
What is needed?
This issue requires a political settlement that involves large, capital-intensive sectors of the American economy. It is pure folly to expect there to be a negotiating table set up as things stand. The governors and mayors of American have initiated much of the current activity. There needs to be a political mandate that is defined through the Congressional and Presidential elections specifically to move from no-action to a Preferred Scenario that will have the needed impact on global warming. This leaves out both the Democratic and Republican candidates. It leaves open the options of Unity '08, the Greens and any others who hold the potential for a comprehensive package of recommendations to enact. http://www.unity08.com/ An independent candidate needs to have defined supporters that endorse the proposal for a national package in order to coordinate the strategy to enact legislation in Congress.
The Green Party current political leadership remains complacent and more focused on the Iraq war then it is on environmental concerns regarding the adoption of a strategy that is based on climate change. James Howard Kunstler, author of THE LONG EMERGENCY, would certainly be a candidate that could unite conservatives and others around the oil peak and energy transition issues. Bill Richardson, a favorite son here in NM, has certainly provided little concrete leadership in addressing energy transition, resource management or national leadership on the Climate Change issue. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to have usurped that crown quite vigorously with little competition.
The agenda includes the following:
A. Establish the highest percentages for renewable energy production and alternative transportation systems that require the introduction of alternative energies in a twenty year period; http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PlanB_contents.htm
B. Economic compensation packages that address workers impacted by the transition http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/studies_cleanenergyandjobs ;
C. Monitoring systems to evaluate the changes in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/ghg/ghg_home_e.cfm ;
D. Incentives for the development of alternatives to petroleum-based products http://www.greenbiz.com/toolbox/essentials_third.cfm?LinkAdvID=4151 ; "Petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products, including solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics; the 16% not used for energy production is converted into these other materials." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum
E. Reduction in the production of single-user modes of transportation http://www.worldwatch.org/node/808 , increase in public investment in mass transit operated with renewable energy http://lrta.info/Facts/facts130.html ;
F. Transition of investment of public utility companies in solar and wind technology, decreasing proportion of energy provided by coal, nuclear and oil http://www.energybulletin.net/5000.html ;
G. Establishment of stakeholder boards for oversight and review http://maineghg.raabassociates.org/member.asp?sort=other , Public Utilities Commissions elected by energy users and represented by qualified advocates including environmental, residential, municipal, and rural;
H. Congressional budgetary commitments through carbon taxes
http://www.carbontax.org/ that transition from military expenditures to energy conversion research and development, implementing Swenson's Law :" To avoid deprivation resulting from the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, humanity must employ conservation and renewable resource substitutes sufficient to match depletion." http://www.hubbertpeak.com/swenson/
I. Establishment of Green Building codes; http://www.smartcommunities.ncat.org/buildings/gbcodtoc.shtml
J. Revamping of commercial railroad system and increasing mileage of track- increase requirement for piggy-backing of trailers across states; http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2229
After a brief compiling of a White Paper http://www.energywhitepaper.gov.au/ addressing the various mechanisms needed for a transition, it is imperative that there be established bio-regional, intercontinental and ocean-atmospheric interaction entities to increase data and develop recommendations for interventions to reduce gas house emissions and mitigate the impacts of global warming. Just as necessary is an international accord to update Kyoto and establish mandatory international requirements for the reduction of greenhouse emissions. http://www.climatechoices.org/impacts_overview/index.html
The development of a serious effort in this regard has not even begun. The first necessary steps is to establish a broad-based coalition of organizations that establishes a common, working strategy for the writing, passing and implementation of an Energy Transition Legislative Package. A five-year target date should be established at an appropriate Founding Congress of political action groups. Political action during that time needs to be prioritized in regards to the passage in Congress, and State Legislatures of the US. Presidential candidates need to be established in the context of presenting this issue on the political agenda in a serious and credible manner.
Time is not on our side. That does not negate the critical element of transformation that can take place rapidly and efficiently once the political will has been consolidated and institutionalized. The complexities are already being addressed.
The alternatives are already modeled in locales and nations around the world. Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have already established energy transition to renewable energy as national priorities.
The first obvious aspect of any plan is that it needs to be approved with more than just a Democratic working majority. It requires winning over non-ideologues in both parties. We should include Republicans such as U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett (Rep., MD) http://bartlett.house.gov/Issues/Issue/?IssueID=2057 ; US Representative Jack Kingston (Rep., GA) http://kingston.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=45541 and others http://www.relocalize.net/node/1243 . Recent news indicates the formation of a bi-partisan Oil peak Caucus initiated by New Mexico's Rep. Udall and Maryland Congressman Bartlett. http://www.tomudall.house.gov/display2.cfm?id=11447&type=Issues Actions are already being taken by the Western Governors' Association http://www.westgov.org/wga/press/plenary1-pr.htm and the U.S. Conference of Mayors http://www.usmayors.org/climateprotection/ regarding climate change. As momentum is building public officials need to be encouraged to move faster and implement the transition legislation needed.
The unfortunate thing is that most people are not even spectators in this particular matter. The Liberals and Progressives prefer movies to legislation. The Neo-Cons never met a war they didn't like. The Conservatives have left their posts and rejected the Imperial Mandate of King Bush II but are asleep at the switch in regards to the science surrounding global warming. The Libertarians want to laissez-faire our way out of the oil peak and global warming. The Greens focus a little too much of our energy on demonstrations that are no longer renewable, and not enough time demonstrating workable plans for renewable energy and reduction of oil consumption. http://www.progress.org/2007/oil32.htm
In the meantime European Union is pledging to cut greenhouse emissions by 25% by the year 2025. Euro Greens have suggested that it didn't go far enough click here and that is certainly fair enough from their vantage point. But in the US, we have not even put our toe in the water regarding the transition to renewable energy applications. This complicates the task, as we saw when we failed to heed Jimmy Carter's call for the moral equivalent war on oil consumption as President in 1977. http://www.mnforsustain.org/energy_speech_president_carter.htm As the Europeans and others are demonstrating addressing global warming takes concrete action in Congress. It takes the political will demonstrated through establishing new priorities for all political parties. It takes investment by the private sector in transition, as recently demonstrated in the TXU buyout deal. http://freeinternetpress.com/story.php?sid=10831 It takes action by the Governors of multi-state regions click here
It is clear that the preliminary work has already been done. The issue at hand is this: Are we at all disposed to construct a work plan that others will sign on to in order to change current energy policies 180 degrees? Or do we content ourselves with the fatalism of the damsel tied onto the railroad track watching her destiny get closer and closer with the resignation of the doomed. The prioritization of these proposals is not something that can be assigned a place on the backburner for convenience sake. Even making the ratification of Kyoto a minimum threshold for candidate support is insufficient in addressing the profound impacts that climate change has already demonstrated the planet's bio-spheres. There has been action by the EU and European nations, but since this is a global issue it requires a global solution. It remains to be seen where the political leadership will come from on this issue.