GOP fiddles with fossil fuels while Los Angeles burns

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Flames of the Simi Valley fire ravage Southern California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff)

The wrong-way Republicans are on the dark side of history again, proposing tax cuts for their wealthy donors and oil companies while gutting programs that have helped to fuel the rise of America’s alternative energy industry.

Solar and wind power, two of the fastest growing (and cleanest) sources of power in this country, provided nearly 7 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2016 (the same as hydropower). More Americans work in solar power today than in the coal industry.

But various Republican proposals in House and Senate tax bills have targeted the incentives that have helped alternative energy surge, while providing tax and other benefits to fossil fuel and nuclear power purveyors — including opening up the National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles burns, Houston floods (three 100-year floods in the past three years), glaciers melt, and the ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. Last year was the hottest ever, topping 2015, which took the crown from 2014. The current year is expected to be among the three hottest years ever.

Scientists, as well as people with a functioning cerebellum, refer to this as a disturbing pattern.

Global warming isn’t simply some wonky theory. It is all around us. Institutions not known for being liberal, such as insurance companies and the Pentagon, have been talking it seriously for many years now, as have coastal cities nationwide. A hotter dryer planet increases the likelihood of weather damage as well as conflict among nations over basic commodities such as food and water.

Examples of climate change are right outside our front doors. Take a walk on the wild side. On November 19, here in Connecticut, I noticed skunk cabbage peaking out from a nearby swamp —the plant, which normally emerges in March, was under the impression that spring had sprung.

The natural world today abounds with much more consequential examples of climate change disruptions: warmer ocean waters that are destroying coral reefs and abetting ever more destructive hurricanes: four of the six most active hurricane seasons have occurred since 2005, and this year will make the top 10 list, including two category 5 storms in one month. Irma had sustained winds of 185 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, the current administration has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the only nation on our warming planet to do so. That last sentence is worth reading again.

But wait, there’s more —there’s always more inanity with this administration. One proposal to boost the oil industry is eliminating the tax credit for electric vehicles. In addition to reducing such clean energy incentives, Trump also is considering slapping a tariff on imported photovoltaic panels, a move that would cripple the burgeoning solar industry. Talk about a jobs killer.

Meanwhile, in October, the federal Environmental Protection Agency overturned the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal and other fossil fuel power plants. As with many other dubious Trumpian policies, there will be litigation.

Meanwhile, China is crushing the United States in its investment in clean energy technologies and power generation, with a quarter of its electricity already coming from renewable sources (compared to less than 15 percent in this country).

Meanwhile, early in his tenure, Trump signed legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Congress ending an Obama administration coal-mining regulation that protected streams and waterways from having coal-mining waste dumped into them.

Before this administration, America was making modest progress on the global warming front. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 were nine percent below 2005 levels. But worldwide emissions are up and it looks like this country will be burning more and more fossil fuels in the years to come.

Is this what you voted for? Is this the direction you want our nation to be heading? Is this the world you want to pass on to you children and grandchildren? If not, speak up — and vote.

David Holahan is a freelance writer from East Hampton.

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