Carl Zichella, Director of Western Transmission, Land & Wildlife Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, gave the keynote address at the Friends of the San Juans annual meeting. Carl is the organization’s lead staff for western U.S. Renewable energy transmission siting and serves on a nationwide team working on renewable energy development issues. In this role, he works with stakeholders from environmental organizations, renewable energy development and transmission industries, local, state and national governments, regulatory agencies and the public to find renewable energy transmission solutions that accelerate renewable energy development while respecting wildlife and land conservation efforts.
In his talk, Carl said “People who live on islands really understand what’s at stake.” Indeed, many of us on San Juan Island have been keenly focused on the progress of the Coal Exports project. (see our blog posts 09/12/13, 09/03/13, 09/2/13, 08/26/13, 08/22/13, 08/09/13, 08/01/13, 05/22/13, 04/3/13, 10/31/12, 09/14/12, 06/02/12.) Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum says “The San Juan Islands and the surrounding straits are the Achilles tendon to the Coal Exports project.”
But Carl’s presentation was an encouraging look at the alternatives to dirty coal. According to Carl, the cost of renewable energy resources is going down, “The resources are there to solve this problem with the renewable resources that are commercially available today.” If so, it would seem we don’t need coal as an economic stimulus; there are viable, sustainable alternatives.
One of the many concerns about the Coal Exports project is the emissions from China with all the coal they are burning.
Carl noted that air pollution is a major issue and embarrassment to the people of China. The Financial Times on October 10, 2013 posted that China is “testing the water” for carbon market to discourage emissions by implementing a carbon tax and other projects. According to Carl, China is now seeking to cut their emissions by 40 – 45% by the year 2020. Which begs the question, how long will they even BUY the coal we export?
Jake Schmidt, also of the NRDC, writes in his March 29, 2011 blog that China is the world leader in installed renewable energy capacity. In addition, “China now accounts for 50% of all wind turbine and solar module manufacturing shipments globally, and given the robust demand targets over the next decade, much of these will be installed in China.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts confirms that China is the leader in clean energy investments, and the U.S., previously at the number one spot in 2008, continues to fall. Why? Two words: national policy. “Countries like China, Germany, Italy and India were attractive to financers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors. However, there is ambiguity surrounding clean energy policies in the United States and the United Kingdom, which likely has caused investors to look elsewhere for opportunities.”
Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, added, “..the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy. As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth. For example, worldwide, China is now the leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels.” Jake Schmidt put it in numbers: “China invested 54.4 billion on clean energy in 2012, $20 billion more than the U.S.”
Which brings us back to the Coal Exports project. With so much uncertainty about the effects on the environment and human health, why risk mining and shipping a dirty, soon obsolete, fuel for a short-term economic stimulus and a few more jobs? Why not invest in renewable energy instead?
Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin and the co-founder of Earth Day said, “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”
What to do? Make your voice heard. The comment period for the proposed Cherry Point terminal in Bellingham is closed, but you have until November 18, 2103 to comment on the proposed Millennium terminal in Longview (also foraging ground for our Southern Resident orcas.) Comment online or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on impacts go to //www.lwvbellinghamwhatcom.org/files/2013_Millenium_Fact_Sheet_for_Comments–final.pdf. For a complete list of comments suggestions and additional resources, see the Friends of the San Juans website.
For suggestions on what to write in your comments, see Power Past Coal.
For an easy review of the impact of the proposed Coal Terminals, download The Salish Sea: In Danger and Gateway to Extinction: Proposed Fossil Fuel Transport through Washington.