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A good start for what meeds to be done is to take advantage of this next Obama four years (until January 2017 remember) to put into motion alternative energy strategies that cannot be rolled back regardless of who wins next time. So, using your column as a philosophical base, what specific steps should our government take?

11/12/12 @ 07:58
Comment from:

Good question, Joe. However I'd prefer to see our government get out of the energy business. I'm exhausted from the idea that progress is only made if there is a tax incentive. A specific step? How about three? Level the financial playing field -- no more favortism; protect our ecology from blatant poisoning; let individuals and communities have greater control over their energy infrastructure.

What about you?

11/12/12 @ 13:32

Hi Ruth, the problem in my opinion with getting government out of the energy business is that the oil and coal companies currently have an unfair advantage of not having to pay for the damage they're causing (pollution, climate change, resource depletion) and the only way we could possibly level the financial playing field is by making them pay the true cost of doing their dirty business. Since they're not going to do that voluntarily, the only entity that could make them pay their fair share or clean up after themselves (speak: regulations) is government.

The government, of course, could start by cutting tax breaks and subsidies to big oil and coal, but that's not enough. We have to hold them accountable, they're literally burning up the planet. I don't know if you read Bill McKibben's article in Rolling Stone, but it lays it out in very clear terms...

I think Germany has shown how private and public sectors can work together to forge into a new direction. But you need a strong government first that sets the tone. For example, when Germany decided to phase out nuclear energy and set the goal to be 100% renewable by 2050, Siemens decided to get out of nuclear technology and refocus on new clean technologies. Also, in order to get their amazing solar program going, the government created feed-in-tariffs that enabled citizens, farmers, and businesses to put solar panels on their roofs and sell their excess energy back into the grid. Now that the infrastructure is set up and solar is starting to compete on the market, they're phasing out the tariffs.

To me, that's the only way it can work, the government HAS to step in and create a level playing field, nobody else is going to do it. Polluters are going to pollute as long as they can make money doing it, so it's up to We the People via our representatives to demand that they be held accountable for the damage they cause.

anyway, great article, as always!

11/12/12 @ 20:56
Comment from:

Sven: I agree wholeheartedly with your observation, and it is the kind of examples you cite that I was thinking about when I said level the financial field and protect the ecology. And I do think government should lead (and regulate). But our government is too entangled with the oil and coal companies to be an effective leader...still...after all these years, after all these fights. Was Exxon Valdez not enough? That is the frustration with which I believe the Federal government should get out of the energy business. Citizens need to start leading first, building inspirational stories like your post: http://svenworld.com/2011/12/20/how-to-start-your-own-renewable-energy-company/

I'm frustrated with general public attitude toward the energy supply, fostered from years of expectations that it is some god-given right, as if we should not be expected to fend for ourselves. Today East Coast neighborhoods are suing select electricity suppliers after Hurricane Sandy because the power took days to restore. In most cases these are the smaller suppliers (note: my supplier did a commendable job). If it turns out that not everything possible was done plan for such a huge storm, the supplier will pay. I appreciate that negligence should be addressed, but how do you define a negligence in response to an extreme, natural catastrophe? Meanwhile, as you say, others "burn up the planet" through blatant negligence and get away with it, as if it's OK because keeping the power flowing is paramount to everything else.

Having sat at the table with international visionaries, you know better than I that we are not alone in our dream. It has become my quest to support the leaders who can get us there, who see the harsh reality of profit-minded pollution, who know it doesn't have to be like this, and who understand we need not bow to greed's control. Thus, I always appreciate your informed insight.

I'm not a dreamy child anymore; I'm running out of time.

11/13/12 @ 06:00

Good points, Ruth, there are definitely things we can push as communities and citizens, and the Schönau example is one good one. It's also happening here in the states with Community Choice Aggregation that's already happening in Massachusetts, Ohio, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. We just started it in SF, check out http://cleanpowersf.org/

But as you say in your post, it has to be an "all of the above" strategy, not just in the types of clean energy we're developing in different places, but with our overall strategy on how to curb greenhouse gases. While I will obviously continue to support and write about local efforts to go green and clean, I will also put my body on the line to stop Chevron and Exxon from doing what they're bound by their shareholders to do: burn the 2700 gigatons of fossil fuels they're sitting on. The choice is really not between one or the other, but we have to do them all.

And I will just completely steal your last line:

I'm not a dreamy child anymore; I'm running out of time.

: )

11/13/12 @ 09:57

thanks for the answer--things do not happen in a vacuum. That's why I want government doing the right thing AND private individuals making smart choices.

11/13/12 @ 12:31