Al Gore Teams Up With Tea Party to Fight for Rooftop Solar
Al Gore has been one of the leading voices in support of the environmental movement for decades, advocating for protection of the planet while in Congress and serving as former President Bill Clinton's vice president. He's written four books on the subject. His role became especially high profile after the release of the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which spotlighted the work he had been doing to raise awareness of climate change through a slide show presentation he'd been doing to groups across the country. He won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
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That film was mocked and dismissed by climate deniers. For instance, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of atmospheric science Richard Lindzen, argued that Gore falsely claimed there was scientific consensus around the reality of climate change. We're currently observing the spectacle of Republicans in Congress fighting tooth and nail to sink President Obama's Clean Power Plant proposal, even going so far as to suggest to governors that their states break the law to defy the federal government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So when you find Democrat Al Gore on the same side of an environmental issue as a far-right Tea Party leader, it's eye-opening. But left and right are coming together over the issue of distributed solar power and the right of homeowners and businesses to install rooftop photovoltaic solar panels.
That shared interest was highlighted this week when Gore spoke at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York this week back-to-back with Debbie Dooley, a national Tea Party activist, chairman of the Atlanta Tea Party and founder of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.
But while Gore has focused on the climate impacts of dirty energy and the need to switch to clean energy sources to prevent global catastrophe, Dooley ignores climate change altogether to focus on individual freedom and the "free market."
"She is an activist for solar energy and decentralizing the grid, working with conservatives across the country who believe expanding renewable energy markets and customer choice are consistent with free-market principles," says her bio. "She believes our nation is in the midst of a clean-energy revolution that unites grassroots activists from the left and right."
An article in Bloomberg News called Gore and Dooley a "political odd couple" and noted that Dooley never mentioned climate change in her presentation, focusing rather on consumer choice.
“Solar equals independence—solar equals freedom,” she said, using a favorite Tea Party word. "Tea Party activists don’t like strong centralized units. There’s nothing more centralized than a utility, than the government telling you what power to buy. This is a battle that we will win. I am literally floored with the response I have been getting from conservatives with the right message.”
Gore had a startlingly similar message.
“People want their own opportunity to shape their own future, and renewable energy is part of that,” he said. “There is a war on solar with these legacy utilities, and coal companies using their historic political power, campaign contributions and lobbying to pass the most ridiculous laws and tax the people who want to put solar panels on their roof.”
Dooley's activism began when she joined forces with the Sierra Club to prevent Georgia Power from billing customers in advance for two nuclear plants projected to have huge cost overruns. She also helped fight off an effort by Georgia utilities to charge owners of rooftop solar an extra fee on their monthly bill, something utilities, backed by conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity, are pushing around the country. Currently, Dooley is one of the leaders of a battle in Florida to protect and expand the ability of homeowners and businesses to generate their own rooftop solar and sell it to their neighbors, bypassing big utility companies. The effort is engaging both conservative and liberal environmentalists.
"They have a lot of policies in Florida that actually effectively block the sun," Dooley told Yale Environment 360. "So you have the Sunshine State that has policies put in place by these powerful utilities to stifle competition, and I just felt like something needed to be done."
"We’re going to work together to accomplish something," she said. "Those on the left believe in climate change and coal’s bad. Those on the right don’t like government-created monopolies— we believe in free-market choice and national security. It doesn’t matter what your reasons are, as long as we work together to accomplish a common goal. That’s all that matters, and we’re much more successful when we’re able to do that."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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