Clean Energy Investment Now to Reduce Storm Damages Later

The most important long-range action utilities can take to reduce damages and suffering from big storms is to make them less likely to happen by switching to clean energy. The link between burning oil, coal and natural gas and the increasing intensity of extreme weather events is well documented.and increasingly obvious.
Many states have adopted Renewable of Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards which promote decreasing use of fossil fuels, and utilities help their customers lower electricity with rebates for saving electricity, such as with insulation or efficient appliances. Still, worldwide carbon emissions are increasing.

Taxpayers are paying for the clean up of storm damage, and many other secondary costs of using fossil fuels. The industry should be responsible for its own costs it incurs. A carbon tax on oil, coal and natural gas with revenue returned to households would shift the responsibility for paying costs of using fossil fuel back on users and allow clean energy to compete fairly. Other countries would be likely to collect their own carbon taxes, rather than pay a tariff to another government.

A bloggers comment:  “LS, That is a BIG LIE you are repeating, Sandy was a relatively small storm that hit at a High tide and a lower then “normal ” pressure differential….
If your statement was true, there would be constantly falling records world wide, It isn’t so. Silly regulations enacted to appease Eco-Nutters faith based Dogmas of Anti-Carbon usage have excerbated the storm damage problems…”

My response: 

It is great that you are looking to records to inform your opinion. Here are some sources to consider.  Regarding weather records: The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a source that would be accepted in a court of law. NCAR reports that …”daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

According to NASA: “ January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Throughout the last three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade.”
The Geophysical Fluid dynamics Laboratory at NOAA reports,  “Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm….”

We should stop Chinese Investment in Canadian Oil Sands

Canada approved Cnooc Ltd’s $15.1 billion takeover bid for oil -sands from operator Nexen Inc.  Shareholders have approved the deal, but it still needs approval from the U.S. and British governments because of assets that Nexen holds in those countries. WSJ Dec 8, 2012

Response:

What are the climate implications of $15 billion more invested in oil development? One gallon of gasoline, when burned, adds 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the air. How many gallons does $15 billion buy? Any science lab can demonstrate that CO2 warms air. See video demonstration. If you’re not sure whether the warming is affecting the world, see this video of melting glaciers , and  go see the new movie ‘Chasing Ice.’

It takes the CO2 a couple decades to warm the air and ocean, so the 10% increase in severity of storms (witness Sandy), the droughts, fires, floods and the fact that there are now twice as many record high temperature events than record cold temperature events, all these are the result of burning fossil fuels 20 years ago. What we burn today will cause a quantum worse weather extremes, over the coming years,  before most people pay off their mortgages.

IEA is not a group of tree huggers. According to IEA deputy executive director Richard Jones,  “Under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020 and almost double by 2050. This would likely send global temperatures at least 6 degrees Celsius [10.8 degrees Fahrenheit] higher. Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships — a legacy that I know none of us wants to leave behind.”

We should oppose this investment in Canadian oil sands. Our government should encourage additional investment in American produced clean energy. We can compete, drive down the cost of energy, and revitalize our economy.

We make choices in energy policy. For a century American government chose to encourage the use of fossil fuels. We  bought it, paid for highways and airports, defended access to it with the blood of our brave troops, and subsidized it to encourage more development. It was not wrong for most of that time; but now it is wrong to continue. Times change. We cannot afford to increase the risk of more $60 billion storms. We cannot afford rising costs of fossil fuel dredged from the ocean floor and squeezed from sand. The manufacture of clean energy technology is an affordable, competitive proposition, which will stop the destabilization of the climate.  It is the choice we need to make.

Costs of global warming

An article in the WSJ describes how ‘Much of Sandy’s Flood Damage to be Covered by Cash-Strapped Federal Program’

Response

In 1980, when the science of climate change moved from theory to reality, people said, ‘Well, we’ll have to do something.’ In 1990, the threat still seemed quite distant, the predicted melting of ice caps, floods, storm surges, sea level rise, droughts and forest fires. By 2000, the temperature of the Earth was rising faster than predicted, the Arctic was melting away, and changes in sea currents and tundra methane indicated that ‘tipping points,’ changes in natural functions of the Earth with potential for widespread destruction of basic life systems, might be starting. Many nations, US states, and municipal governments began to shift to more efficient use of energy and increasing use of green technology like wind, wave and solar power. However, the US Congress failed to act.

Billions in damage claims from this storm will be born by taxpayers, more costs will never be recovered, and many lives were lost.

Data shows that the frequency of heavy downpours (defined as the top 1 percent of rainfall events) has increased by almost 20 percent on average in the U.S, as a result of climate change over the past 50 years. Severe weather events will increase for several   decades, even after we stop burning fossil fuels.  It takes decades after release of excess CO2 for it to raise the temperature of the huge Earth. So the planet’s temperature will keep rising for at least another 20 years, and then stay high for  centuries.

It is time to deal with the problem.

The corporations selling the oil, coal and natural gas, the fossil fuels that emit the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is the main cause of this imbalance in the climate, have failed to coordinate an appropriate response. Responsible corporate behavior would be to shift their investments and production into geothermal, wind, solar, battery, algae fuel, smart grids, efficiency technology, and other products that could replace the burning of the fossil fuels. With a few insignificant exceptions, they have not done this.

Isn’t it time for the federal government to protect us from increasing damages from overheating the climate. A tax on carbon that increases every year would give the petroleum industry a measured incentive to shift to production of green technology.

We do not have to keep burning fossil fuels. We can reduce US energy use by 20% just with regulations requiring buildings to be more energy efficient.   Wind and solar electricity are already cost competitive in many places and smart grids can handle different and new energy sources. Worldwide demand for solar technology is surging. America has the engineering and entrepreneurial expertise to create a new industrial base of green energy that can out-compete fossil fuel, revitalize our economy and protect our shores.