An energy policy that hastens our own extinction

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It seems that these days, we don’t need meteors from outer space any more to erase the dinosaurs. We concoct our own earth-history-disrupting event, with more and more species already extinct or in great danger. And I’m not only talking plants and animals, this time it’s about us.

Millions of people, cities and entire regions are at risk of losing their lives, their livelihood, or at least their home. More frequent and more severe storms, floods, mudslides, fires, droughts, loss of habitat and wars for resources — lucky those who are not dinosaurs, who are smaller and more adaptable, or have the option to move somewhere else.

Why then, I wonder, do we keep investing in dinosaurs? Why do we still support large scale, corporate fossil-fuel exploitation? Why, in this case, is our current administration planning to open up almost our entire coast line for offshore drilling?

Last year, President Trump ordered a review of the previous 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The new Draft Proposed Program, devised by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, would allow exploration and subsequent drilling on almost the entire U.S. coastline.

Aside from the irrevocable marine destruction this “exploration” will cause (seismic blasting, at 200-600 decibels, three to five times the volume of a rock concert, deafens migrating whales, kills fish eggs and larvae, and diminishes catch rates for commercial fishing, not to mention the damage for tourism and recreation), and aside from the risk of inevitable spills that come with drilling, I wonder why the president would encourage further investment into dinosaurs bound for extinction?

Why burden ourselves with vulnerable oil rigs that might, in the best case, bring questionable profit for 30-50 years, while threatening our coastal population, and eventually our nation with infinite environmental damage? Why would we consider such stolid behemoth, if there are other, smaller and more agile solutions available, like solar and wind? It feels like tying ourselves to dinosaurs — and this time we know the asteroid is coming — while watching amphibian, avian, even some lemur-like creatures and smaller mammals move away from the danger…

Let’s look beyond and check how other nations plan for their energy future:

China just released a new clean heating plan: by 2019, half of all homes and businesses in northern China will be heated using clean energy (geothermal, biomass, solar and other non coal or oil based energy). By 2021, over 70 percent of northern China will be heating with cleaner energy – while the U.S. still invest in dinosaurs.

India recently launched a new program, ‘Saubhagya Yojna’, allocating $2.5 billion to electrify every willing household, rural and urban, with solar, energy storage batteries and LED by December 2018. There while the U.S. keeps investing in dinosaurs.

In Russia, while the government’s energy plan dates back to 2009 and still relies mainly on vast oil and gas resources, some of the richest oligarchs as well as individual communities have started to invest in solar and wind — while our president encourages drilling for offshore dinosaurs.

Canada’s National Energy Board predicts fossil fuel consumption to peak by 2020, due mainly to increased energy efficiency, slowing economic and population growth, and implementation of climate change policies. Adding higher carbon pricing and technological improvements into the scenario, consumption of fossil fuels will decrease even faster. So why should we keep investing in dinosaurs again?

The president’s “America First Offshore Energy Strategy,” if implemented, could win us a first place we don’t really want: falling behind on future oriented energy planning. U.S. economy and consumers could be among the first dinosaurs to suffer.

Let the dinosaurs and fossil fuel giants rest in peace, and let’s invest in smaller, more flexible and better adapted energy solutions: sustainable, resilient, local energy generation (especially solar, wind and geothermal), improved electricity storage, and a reliable electric grid.

So, instead of opening our coastlines to oil and gas drilling, how about incentives for wind and solar? At the very least, they won’t cover our fisheries and our coasts with oil spills; at best, they will provide sustainable energy, without expediting our own extinction.

Unfortunately, the period for public comment on this proposed plan has just ended. So what is next?

In about a year, the Department of the Interior will issue a final plan describing which auctions it will hold. Each of these lease sales for specific parts of he coast will then get its own listening tour. So when the next round of public hearing comes around, please speak up and request that they refrain from auctioning off our coasts.

Congress will also get 60 days to review any new lease plan. In that case, be ready to call on your representatives to block or revise this lease program — for our oceans and our coastlines, and for our children’s sake.

Details about the BOEM’s Draft Proposed Program, as well as a schedule for the proposed leases, can be found here.

Adelheid Koepfer lives in Wallingford.

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