Time For U.S. To Choose The Future

Daily News-Record, October 2, 2017
H. Bishop Dansby, Opinion (Open Forum)

energy-1989341_960_720Progress in addressing climate change is, of course, held up by the interests vested in coal, oil and natural gas energy resources, and by those who fear that we cannot replace these energy sources without damaging the economy.

Coal, oil and natural gas are natural resource-based sources of energy. The prices of those products has tended to stay flat with some temporary spikes. Technology-based energy, by great contrast, will tend to go down in price over time.

We are not accustomed to thinking in terms of tech-based energy, but we have had some forms of it for a long time, such as nuclear and hydroelectric power. Today, we also have solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and eventually we’ll have fusion. These will not consume natural resources, except in the more limited way of fabricating technology. The “fuel” of tech-based energy is intellectual and informational. While the need to reduce greenhouse gases has hastened the rate at which we transition from natural resource-based energy to tech-based energy, we will reap the benefits to quality of life and standard of living earlier.

If the Apple iPhone X were implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors alone would have cost $150 trillion in today’s currency (one and a half times today’s global annual product), taken up a hundred-story square building two miles long and wide, and drawn 150 terawatts of power — 30 times the world’s current generating capacity.

The last factoid is worth reemphasizing. A single computer in 1957 matching the computing power of today’s iPhone would have required 30 times the electricity generation capacity of the whole world!

The Apple iPhone is a metaphor of the future. We can have a higher standard of living for less cost while consuming fewer resources and using less energy. The necessity of mitigating climate change may be hastening arrival of the future, but the good news is that we will have this new world sooner rather than later.

The technologies that will reduce greenhouse emissions, including solar power, electric vehicles, advanced batteries, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, 3-D printing, net zero energy buildings, and increased energy efficiency are creating a world consistent with the Apple iPhone metaphor.

Hanging onto fossil energy will put America more in step with North Korea than with the world of the future. Need I note that the U.S. is the only country in the world not part of the Paris Climate Agreement?

Although much of our private sector and many state and local governments are embracing the future of green energy, the federal government is dismantling environmental protections and propping up energy industries of the past. Meanwhile, China and Europe and the other 192 nations that entered the Paris Climate Agreement are choosing the future.

Mr. Dansby lives in Keezletown.

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Fracking Is A Public Health Hazard

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – Aug 29, 2017

The natural gas industry claims their methods are safe, but science shows us otherwise. Many harmful chemicals are released in fracking and pipeline leaks, including arsenic, mercury, radon, benzene, toluene and hundreds of others. Many can cause childhood leukemia. Pipelines leak with depressing regularity. Land and water affected by these leaks will never return to normal in the lifetime of anyone reading this newspaper, or their children or grandchildren.

Physicians For Social Responsibility, of which I am a member, has published two high-quality sources of scientific information on the public health risks of fracking: “Compendium” and “Too Dirty, Too Dangerous.” Both are available free online.

The public health risks associated with the natural gas industry are high. The industry has long used cash settlements, gag orders and other strategies to hide this fact from us all. We can no longer plead ignorance.

Douglas Hendren
Harrisonburg

Leaving Paris Pact A Bad Idea

Daily News-Record, June 17, 2017
Leslie Grady Jr., Opinion (Open Forum)

Why did the delegates cheer when they adopted the Paris Climate Agreement? Was it because now they could stick it to the U.S. and ruin our economy? No! It was because for the first time in history almost all countries recognized that we face a global problem and agreed to work together to solve it.

And now President Trump wants to pull the U.S. out of it? What about the Pacific islander, whose home is vulnerable to rising seas? Or the African villager, whose crops have failed because of unprecedented drought? Or the Pakistani laborer, whose income is cut because he can’t work in the summer due to life-threatening heat and humidity? Evidently, Trump wants to tell them: “Tough luck; we want a better deal!” Get serious! That’s a foolish idea born out of ignorance.

So why should we act on climate? There are three main reasons: moral, economic and political.

Because the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is the main driver of climate change, the United States bears a particular moral responsibility. Why? Because we released more than 25 percent of it, even though we are less than 5 percent of the global population. We also have the highest per capita emission rate, more than double that of Europe. But, acting on our emissions won’t just benefit others, it will also help us. Smarter use of energy will improve our economy, save us money, improve our quality of life, and make us healthier.

The illogical thing about leaving the Paris Climate Agreement is that it flies in the face of economic progress. The big energy markets of the future will be in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. They’re already embracing renewable energy, rather than just building centralized energy supplies based on fossil fuels. This trend will accelerate as better batteries and energy storage systems are developed. We could be selling those systems to the rest of the world, but instead, we’ll be viewed as turning our backs on them.

Global leadership is something the United States has embraced since the end of World War II, but leaving the Paris Climate Agreement brings that era to an end. “America First!” also means “Others Last!” That’s not the type of message that will resonate in today’s world. The Paris Climate Agreement was a shining example of global cooperation and the international response to Trump’s decision shows that the rest of the world doesn’t want to return to old “Me first!” policies.

Now, it’s up to us. We can lower our own carbon footprints. We can encourage our local governments to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy. We can act to change energy policies at the state level to diminish the reliance on fossil fuels.

Embrace the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement and act for a better tomorrow.

Mr. Grady lives in Harrisonburg.

Trump Is The Climate Threat, Not China, Not India

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – June 5, 2017

“Why should the U.S. act on climate change?” some ask. “China and India aren’t.” Recent developments show that such ideas are false.

For the third year in a row, China’s CO2 emissions have dropped, suggesting they have peaked 10 years earlier than pledged. Also, China recently canceled construction of more than 100 coal-fired power plants.

India has 6,700 MW of new nuclear power under construction and last week its cabinet approved plans to build an additional 7,000 MW. Furthermore, India will install 8,800 MW of solar power in 2017 and power companies bid to sell electricity from a new solar farm at 20 percent less than the cheapest coal-fired power. These actions put India on track to obtaining 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources eight years ahead of schedule.

China and India are moving rapidly to fulfill their climate pledges. It’s the U.S. that’s back-pedaling under President Trump.

Leslie Grady Jr.
Harrisonburg

Climate Action Now!

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – May 1, 2017
Tom Benevento, Opinion

A lasting memory I hold dear from my childhood is a time when my parents took me to the coast of Maine where I discovered sea stars along the rocky tide pools. They inspired me with appreciation for the diversity and beauty of life. After college, I went to those same coastal areas and taught marine ecology to 5th- and 6th-graders. They too were inspired by the beauty and magic of sea stars and knew that those experiences will be lasting memories for them. More recently, Princeton University confirmed that sea stars are dying rapidly due to warming oceans. My heart sank at the loss of such magnificent creatures.

During the past 10 years, I have worked on the Haitian-Dominican border with rural farmers. I have seen them suffer from food insecurity as their lands become drier and hotter. In desperation, one farmer told me he had nothing to feed his family for six weeks except mangos found in abandoned trees. Drought shriveled his corn.

Last year was the hottest on record with searing heatwaves of 123 and 129 degrees in India and Kuwait. Human activity’s effect on our climate is no longer subtle. It’s plain as day, note climate scientists from Penn State University. Concern is growing world-wide. Solutions are achievable.

Stanford University carefully mapped a plan for the United States to go renewable in 15 years. Here, 180 solar panels were recently installed on Gift and Thrift in an afternoon. The Renew Rocktown campaign helps residents get energy assessments to save money and energy. The Northend Greenway is moving forward. Solar co-ops are popping up around town.

Political candidates who took strong stands for the climate won in Harrisonburg, a sign that the community is ready for the next step. We must make a city climate-action plan focused on energy efficiency and renewables, sustainable transportation, regional food and waste and water reduction. Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Richmond have plans and are retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, reducing waste, and saving millions of city dollars. These actions have enormous benefits beside those affecting climate. They offer huge cost savings, improve health, air quality and urban livability, and create happier communities.

The time is right to take our future seriously, and make the positive changes we and our children deserve.

Mr. Benevento lives in Harrisonburg.

Why We March For The Climate

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – April 28, 2017

The Peoples Climate March this Saturday in Washington, D.C., will include a large delegation from the Valley, and there are as many reasons we’re going as there are marchers. There will be Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists and entrepreneurs, alarmists and optimists. Many have studied the science and the evidence and find them absolutely compelling, while others still have some uncertainty but love the idea of saving money with solar energy.

Some are going because they like to ski and winter is much milder now, or because they’re farmers and orchardists and the growing season has become wildly uncertain. Some may come from coal mining families but dream of joining the 100,000 wind energy employees now working in the U.S.

I, and many more, will march for our children and grandchildren and the ecosystem we all depend on, knowing, fearing, that whatever happens will happen to all of us, believers and deniers alike.

Joni Grady
Harrisonburg

A Conservative Climate Plan

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2017
Leslie Grady, Opinion (Open Forum)

cc_cover-222x300On Feb. 8, a delegation of Republican elder statesmen met with White House officials to propose a radical idea. They represented the Climate Leadership Council, and their idea was simple: because Republicans won the presidency and both houses of Congress, they now own the problem of climate change and must act on it. Why did they do this and what did they propose?

The why: Climate change is progressing more rapidly than many had expected, with increasingly severe costs, both human and economic. The human costs range from loss of life, through destruction of property, to long-term impacts on health and well-being. The economic costs range from loss of property, through decreases in labor productivity, to decline in agricultural yields. Just as we buy insurance to minimize the economic impacts of fires, auto collisions, and health catastrophes, immediate action against climate change is insurance against the greater losses that will occur without action.

The what: a conservative climate solution, called the Carbon Dividends Plan. According to the Climate Leadership Council, “any climate solution should be based on sound economic analysis and embody the principles of free markets and limited government.” Furthermore, “such a plan could strengthen our economy, benefit working-class Americans, reduce regulations, protect our natural heritage and consolidate a new era of Republican leadership. These benefits accrue regardless of one’s views on climate science.”

The plan has four components.

A gradually increasing tax on CO2 emissions: The tax would be imposed at the first point where fossil fuels enter the economy, meaning the mine, well, or port-of-entry. The tax would increase steadily over time, sending a signal to businesses and consumers that CO2 emissions must be reduced, encouraging innovation.

Carbon dividends for all Americans: The proceeds from the carbon tax would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly tax-free basis, making it revenue-neutral. These dividends would increase the disposable income of most Americans, while particularly helping those struggling to make ends meet.

Border carbon adjustments: Exporters to countries without comparable systems would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while importers from such countries would face fees on the carbon content of their products. This would protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations.

Significant regulatory rollback: Regulations such as those in the Clean Power Plan would no longer be necessary upon enactment of a rising carbon tax, and thus could be eliminated.

Importantly, everyone must give up something for the plan to be enacted. Republicans must give up their reluctance to accept climate science. Democrats must give up their reliance on regulation and trust in the free market. Nongovernmental organizations must stop dividing people into enemies and friends. All must work together to achieve a strong economy in a clean environment. If we can do that, we will all be winners.

Write or call Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Ask them to help us adopt of the Carbon Dividends Plan.

Dr. Grady is a retired environmental engineering professor. He lives in Harrisonburg.

Goodlatte Supports Trump Plan For More Pollution

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – March 22, 2017

In 1973, as I looked out over the Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive, there was a blanket of dark smog about the level of the top of the Massanutten Peak. The park ranger said it was pollution from states to our west. It has much improved since then due to good environmental regulations.

Now we are taking a big step backward. President Trump’s administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, when asked about pollution crossing state lines, had no comment. Pruitt sued the EPA multiple times over regulations and Trump has already signed an environmental executive order allowing stream pollution.

Our “representative,” Bob Goodlatte, who will not even come listen to us about any issue, has supported them completely. So as our environment and health start to deteriorate over time, we will know who to blame. Maybe with enough citizen input we can stop a flood of environmental degradation.

Charles Strickler
Harrisonburg

On Climate, Trump A Backward Reactionary

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – March 22, 2017

How do we reduce the trade deficit, create American jobs, stimulate the economy, undermine terrorism, improve our quality of life, and unify the nation with a sense of common purpose? By addressing the biggest challenge man has ever faced: climate change.

In doing so, we convert our energy system from one based on fossil fuels to one based on the sun’s energy, along with energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable practices. The result will be cheaper energy, greater exports of energy technology, elimination of dependency on Mideast oil, creation of millions of domestic jobs, and a less toxic environment.

Donald Trump’s plan is to ignore climate change and take us back to a 20th-century energy system and economy, a backward and reactionary strategy that will guarantee the United States will cease being the leader of the world.

H. Bishop Dansby
Keezletown