Clean Energy For All

Daily News-Record, February 28, 2020
Open Forum: Tom Benevento

Clean Energy For All

Silvio reached out to shake my hand as he untied his donkey. I could feel years of hard work on his weathered fingers. He is one of thousands of farmers eking out a living in this remote mountain region of the Dominican Republic where I assist reforestation efforts. After a short greeting, Silvio motioned to follow him to his field. The crunching sound of dry leaves under feet was a sure sign of extended drought in this tropical zone. Across the ravine he pointed to his corn, the basic staple for his family. It was 2 feet tall and shriveled dead. We sat in a moment of silence. He then carefully pulled out a mango from his tattered backpack to share and said, “ Over the last six weeks, the only thing I have to feed my children are mangoes from abandoned trees.”

It struck me hard, more than the facts of science. A warming planet is real, and targets vulnerable people like Silvio first and worst. I had a sinking feeling knowing that my lifestyle, along with millions like me, is causing climate warming around the world. And that is why, today, I am part of the Harrisonburg 50 by 25 Clean Energy for All campaign to help our city transition quickly to renewable energy and greater levels of energy efficiency. It’s compelling. It helps solve several problems at once — reducing greenhouse gases, reducing energy costs for low- income households, and increasing jobs and well- being.

Despite that unsettling feeling I experienced in the DR, I now know that we have solutions and we can join with others. Already, 1 in 4 people in the U. S. live in places transitioning to 100% clean energy.

Here’s how the 50 by 25 campaign works. First, we empower our City Council to require our electric utility to provide 50% solar and wind energy into our electric grid by 2025. This alone provides big carbon reductions, and parallels the governor’s commitment for Virginia state agencies. Second, we urge council to commit to a 25% increase in energy efficiency by 2025 for public schools and government buildings. Roanoke is already doing this, saving the city nearly $ 1 million a year in energy costs. Third, we request City Council to create incentives for weatherization and energy efficiency for residents and commercial operations. Successful state programs like VEEP, On- Bill Recovery Loans, and C- PACE benefit low- income households, renters, and businesses.

In addition, we can help each other take steps, like eating less meat, riding a bicycle or walking when possible, growing gardens, and installing solar.

The benefits from this would be tremendous. Our youth will look at us with pride knowing we did something for their future. And, farmers like Silvio and his family will have enough to eat.

So Harrisonburg, let’s join the movement. Voice your support for the 50 by 25 campaign and create a better future for all.

Tom Benevento lives in Harrisonburg.

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