Gaining Perspective

(#300) — The world-wide scientific community announced this week that the earth’s atmosphere has now passed the 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The last time earth experienced such a condition was tens of millions of years ago. 400 parts per million is an earthly condition that does not support healthy or prosperous life for the human. Also announced this week was that Plymouth Island, Massachusetts, the first successful colony of Europeans will be completely below the ocean surface in the near future, not 150 years from now as projected just a few years ago.  Let’s connect the dots.

We know that fossil fuel energy production and consumption is a major cause of these environmental changes. The United States in recent decades, and especially in the first decade of the 21 century, greatly ramped up its energy production– mainly fossil fuels such as natural gas – which is one of the most prominent local issues. Governor Cuomo may permit hydro-fracking of the Marcellus Shale or the two or three additional layers of oil embedded in other rock as far as 6 miles beneath our communities, for a short time our economy may lessen its dependence upon foreign produced petro energy. This case is not certain for some studies indicate that the shale oil in our region may not be useable as an energy source. If the Obama Administration permits the XL Pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands oil to traverse the north-south extent of the USA, our national economy will have what some call cheap fossil fuels for another two or three decades even if we retire hundreds of coal-fired energy plants.

The alternative is to consider local investment in large scale energy efficiency and renewable energy production.  New York State has an excellent energy efficiency program.  Its design is superb but its funding and marketing is very limited.  Funding for production of renewable energy also lags behind many other states.  Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts, followed by New Jersey and Connecticut lead in forming private-public partnerships that encourage citizens to invest along with state legislative appropriations in forming energy cooperatives where dollars and jobs multiply and stay local.  All local educational and commercial enterprise is invigorated by this new demand for skilled workers, and the supply of cheaper energy that also saves millions in environmental and public health.  Local smart grids that employ a host of new technologies such as programmable energy meters in homes, businesses and public buildings that can manage energy consumption and sell for substantial profit locally produced energy to the utility during times of  high grid demand, have also been installed in other states.

Projects like these, and others, such as pursuing large solar electric and wind power installations where we know they can produce that same triple bottom line of economic, environmental and public health benefits, are being discussed in Sullivan County and the regional Sustainability Planning Consortia.  What is needed is greater human and financial resources to bring these essential developments to our communities without further delay.

We will soon lose Plymouth Rock.  We have already lost a lot.  We can at least slow down the human and environmental damage and revitalize our economy and local communities best by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

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