Maine Gov. Claims Wind Turbines Hurt State Tourism, But He Supports Offshore Drilling Expansion
As it happens, LePage, a Republican, is the sole Atlantic Coast governor who favors the Trump administration's proposal to open nearly all of America's coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling.
Ironically, the Trump administration exempted Florida from the offshore drilling expansion for practically the same reason that LePage wants to ban new wind turbines—that it could drive tourists away.
Gov. Rick Scott warned that a spill from drilling operations would devastate Florida's tourism industry. "For Florida, we have to remember we are a tourism state. One out of every six jobs in our state is tied to tourism. So, I oppose offshore drilling," the Republican told Fox News.
Sure, tourism is big in Florida, accounting for about 12 percent of the state's gross domestic product. But tourism is also big in Maine, making up about 10 percent of the state's economy, as Reuters pointed out. Tourism also employs one out of every six jobs in Maine.
LePage's executive order also creates a commission to review wind energy projects in the state and to review the impact of wind farms on the state's economy. The moratorium will stay until the commission releases a report on its findings.
"I am placing a moratorium on issuing any new permits related to wind turbines until this Commission studies the economic impact that such development would have on tourism in Maine," the governor said Wednesday of his executive order. "Tourism, especially returning visitors, is a major driver for the Maine economy. We cannot afford to damage our natural assets in ways that would deter visitors from returning to Maine."
LePage's move is a blow to Maine's wind energy industry that has boomed under the governor's tenure. The windy state is New England's largest generator of wind energy and has the most wind turbines in the region. In 2017, wind energy generated about 20 percent of Maine's power, up from 4 percent in 2011, when LePage took office. At the same time, tourism in Maine has grown for the fourth straight year in 2016.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine, tweeted that "since 2009, Maine's Fox Islands have been powered by a three turbine wind farm. Meanwhile, tourism to Vinalhaven and North Haven continues to grow annually."
The Portland Press Herald also reported:
"Maine's governor announced the moratorium one day before Massachusetts regulators are expected to announce the initial round of winners of a bidding competition to supply huge amounts of renewable energy to the Bay State. With several Maine-based wind projects vying for the lucrative contract, both supporters and critics of LePage's action said the executive order appeared timed to send a message to Massachusetts about the prospects for new wind projects in the state.
"'This is an attempt to thwart billions of dollars of investment that is looking at Maine,' Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said in an interview. 'What kind of a message are we sending to the world here when the governor is able to decide without any statutory authority to wreck a billion-dollar industry?"
In addition to the executive order, LePage plans to introduce legislation to amend the laws governing expedited permitting for wind energy development.
"Current law is too ambitious and overly permissive in areas of the state where we must protect our scenic vistas. While I believe that some expedited permitting for wind is appropriate, my bill will implement constraints on where expedited development can occur to protect our tourism-based economy," he said.
But congresswoman Pingree countered, "As New England's largest generator of wind energy, Maine must continue to grow jobs in this sector and reduce greenhouse gases, which are causing climate change and doing very real damage to our state's fishing, lobstering, and tourism industries."
Since 2009, Maine’s Fox Islands have been powered by a three turbine wind farm. Meanwhile, tourism to Vinalhaven an… https://t.co/X1METxBVK7— Chellie Pingree (@Chellie Pingree)1516823644.0
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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