EcoWatch Launches Petition to Expedite Renewable Energy
In 2009 it seemed as though Congress was finally going to pass legislation that would transition our country to a renewable energy future. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, would have created a cap and trade system on greenhouse gases, required electric utilities through a renewable electricity standard (RES) to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020, subsidized renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and financed modernization of the electrical grid, among many other provisions.
The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212, but died in the Senate. The vote was the first time either house of Congress had a bill on the floor that would curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. Though the bill included some not so favorable items, such as subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration, and not nearly an aggressive enough RES, it would have been considerably better than doing nothing.
In addition to what seemed like progress on federal energy legislation, nearly 20 states had passed their own energy bills mandating a RES with a variety of percentages of renewable energy being generated in upcoming years. These states were at the forefront of the renewable energy evolution and are responsible for thousands of renewable projects that bolstered local economies by creating green jobs and increasing manufacturing of solar and wind products in the U.S. Finally, it looked as if the renewable energy marketplace was gaining ground and we were going to pass federal energy legislation that would create a sustainable economy.
I spent that year lobbying and educating EcoWatch readers on the Waxman-Markey Bill and Ohio's energy bill SB 221, working at the local level on solar and wind zoning, and fighting the proposed 1,000-megawatt conventional coal-fired power plant that American Municipal Power of Ohio planned to build in the already sacrificed-zone of Meigs County, Ohio. Feeling like my advocacy work wasn't enough, I launched Expedite Renewable Energy, a company which helps businesses and residents through the many steps of investing in solar and wind projects.
Unfortunately the federal bill failed, and with the new leadership in the House following the 2010 Congressional elections no hope remained that an energy bill mandating a RES and cap and trade system would be prioritized again any time soon. In addition, some of the strong energy bills passed on the state level began diminishing in return depending on the leadership in each state. In Ohio, SB 221 remains active but the main incentive driver, the Advanced Energy Fund, sunsetted and was not renewed which has significantly decreased the amount of investment in renewable energy projects and the economic boost the state was receiving in green jobs and manufacturing.
Now three years later, I'm left feeling like we took two steps forward and ten steps back. The amazing part is that a large majority of Americans want renewable energy and understand the implications of continued reliance on fossil fuels—like coal, natural gas and oil—and know that if we don't transition to cleaner sources of energy now, the air we breathe and the water we drink will continue to be compromised to a point of no return.
So what's keeping us from moving forward when we live in a democratic society? For me, it's as simple as money in politics. We need to reverse Citizens United and get money out of politics once and for all. But we can't completely blame the political system. It is also up to every American to educate themselves on these issues and implement sustainability practices to reduce energy usage and conserve our natural resources.
Of course the grassroots environmental movement plays a vital role in educating people and encouraging strong environmental policy. That is why EcoWatch is taking on the call to unite the voices of the grassroots environmental movement and all Americans around a honed in message asking Congress to expedite renewable energy.
Today, EcoWatch.org is launching a petition that outlines a renewable energy policy that we believe everyone in the grassroots movement and fellow Americans can support. We are asking you to sign the petition directed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources and House Energy & Commerce Committee. This petition can help serve as a basis for bipartisan legislation that members of Congress can introduce in their committees and ultimately on the House and Senate floor.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.