Taking action or succumbing to changing-climate misery
By Frances LambertsHe is optimistic, Dave Freeman said at a meeting on energy issues in Chattanooga recently, since Americans have a “pretty good track record of turning things around when signs of danger to our country become unmistakable.”
The signs are indeed unmistakable and everywhere.
Searing, 108-degree temperatures in Chattanooga, wide-ranging wildfires in the west, multiple tornadoes in the mid-west, stronger than usual storms and heat in the east, southern Florida under water after torrential rains from a tropical storm.
With 2,000 extreme-weather records set in a two-week span this summer, evidence abounds of climate change dangers, which scientists have been warning about for more than two decades.
An engineer who headed the Tennessee Valley Authority under President Carter and other large utilities, such as the New York Power Authority later, Freeman knows optimism to be sane and mitigation of global climate change feasible if we change our ways in using energy.
“The cheapest, cleanest and most reliable source of energy is that which we avoid using,” he states, and being lower in cost than the fuel they displace, investments in efficiency benefit the economy.
The partner step to efficiency is transitioning the energy system away from the current, coal, oil, and nuclear technologies.
Renewables are the needed solution, and they are “fully capable of meeting all our energy needs.”
Nearly half a million customers took advantage of efficiency-related services the TVA offered during Freeman’s chairmanship.
Following an “energy doctor’s” on-site survey, the costs for improvements adopted by the homeowner, paid for up front by TVA, were paid back in the monthly electric bill.
The program resulted in significantly lowered electricity demand, allowing the cancellation of several nuclear plants.
Construction costs for these had risen dramatically when new safety features were mandated after the reactor-meltdown accident at Three Mile Island.
Under the efficiency services in its current energy plan, TVA provides a (maximum) $500 cost share for installed upgrades.
The cost for extensive upgrades being quite high, however, far fewer customers can avail themselves of the benefits of the program — lower electric bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Fully 50 percent of the energy we use is wasted, experts say, and opportunities for efficiency improvement are plentiful.
Building codes for new homes can make these energy-smart from the start.
Government at all levels can cut energy waste in government buildings.
Householders and businesses can change appliances, lighting and many “lifestyle” practices, to be less energy consumptive.
Such changes should be promoted and subsidized, or at least made possible through utility programs such as TVA provided to its customers in the 1970s.
With the misery, cost and danger to the nation if global warming is not addressed, something else seems critically important.
Political leaders in the Congress, and aspirants to the White House on the GOP side, should stop calling it a hoax and figment of “liberals” imagination.
They should cease blocking the government from taking needed action to avert even worse impacts to come.