The United States has reneged on its commitment to the rest of the world to do its part in controlling, and eventually reversing, negative human influences on climate. Deregulation and the reversal of Obama era clean climate orders are designed to discourage efforts to clean-up the air, playing right into the hands of companies that find it easier and cost-saving to pollute rather than clean up after themselves. We are officially out of the Paris Climate Agreement. That’s the myopic view of the U.S. from the West Wing of the White House.
Reality tells a different story. While the Trump administration has been busy rolling back 83 standing environmental rules, half the states, nearly 100 cities, a number of universities, and hundreds of businesses, thankfully including public utility providers across the nation are taking up the mantle and doing the heavy lifting necessary to see that American efforts to stem climate change are continued.
Nowhere is the effort more energetic than right here in the American West. We are daily witnesses to the effects of massive wildfires caused by warming temperatures and devastating flooding from heavy precipitation. The problem is compounded when those two forces mix. The exposed earth of burned-out forest areas become ripe for massive erosion. This spring, sections of the Rocky Mountains are experiencing 1,500% snowpack! More water for places like Lake Mead is not a problem, but getting it there in those quantities may be. Life, treasure, and billions of dollars have already been lost. Today, states along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are dealing with the second 500-year flood in 26 years, other states along the eastern coast are experiencing accelerated numbers of hurricanes, and tornadoes and earthquakes are being experienced in places seldom before affected. I’m not minimizing the issues in those midwestern and eastern states or the plans they are developing to combat climate tragedies by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to brag about my third of the country.
California is its own subject and an entire column could be written on their gallant efforts to combat the lunacy of ignoring a chance to do some good for the planet and create goodwill among Earth’s population. California is leading the way on pushing back on Donald Trump’s efforts to allow more pollutants by reversing restrictions on auto tailpipe carbon emissions. Most of the big auto makers agree with California and want the regulations left in place. I could go on and on about the Golden State, but I want to spend the rest of my words lauding the efforts of the other western states.
Washington state and Colorado public utilities are experimenting with ways to show the long-term effects of carbon pollution on future generations. With clearer reporting the public can better understand pollution by having information the federal government is trying to hide. Nevada’s NV Energy and PacifiCorp are spreading the word that clean, renewable energy is getting cheaper as time goes on and is becoming more popular among residential and business customers. Nothing like a little good press to enhance a movement.
Nevada’s legislature unanimously pledged to provide half of its electricity from renewables by 2030. That is more energetic than the U.S. clean energy plan of 28% by 2025 made when we were Paris Agreement participants. Washington’s pledge is to provide 100% electric from renewables by 2045, New Mexico will eliminate 100% of carbon generated electricity by 2040, and Colorado has set goals across the economy to identify and reduce carbon pollution from every source. One solution in Oregon is its Clean Fuels program. They have measured one-third of their greenhouse gasses as coming from the transportation sector. Oregon is providing cleaner fuels such as lower carbon ethanol and biodiesel. Electricity, natural gas, biogas, and propane will all help shrink Oregon’s transportation carbon footprint. Auto emissions are critical but a lot of research and development is going into greening-up the vehicles of public transportation and the work vehicles needed to keep the economy humming.
Xcel Energy in Colorado has closed two aging coal fired plants. To offset the loss of electricity from the plants and, even more importantly, the loss of jobs, the utility pledged $2.5 billion to create new jobs and build the local tax base. The plan is that workers’ transitions from coal-based jobs to working in renewable energy will be seamless. The state is offering full access to the plan so that this program can be used as a regional energy hub.
Starting today and moving forward, states, cities, colleges, and businesses can evaluate the lush variety of plans on which other entities are working. They can pick and choose what may work for them so every renewable plan does not have to be created from square one. The sharing and transparency of these innovations is joyous. The model of openness and the communal desire to scrub the air of carbon pollutants is in keeping with the ideals of the United Nations––much more refreshing than clandestine dumping and filling the air with pollutants in clouds of smoke encouraged by factions most concerned with profit over human health and welfare.
I vote for sunshine over billows of smoke every time.