By Paritosh Kasotia
August 3rd will be remembered as a day when the US government took a bold step to set first-ever limits on power plant carbon emissions and make a serious attempt at tackling climate change. While this should be a great news for all of us, certain special interest groups will try their best to hamper its implementation.
In order to move forward, we must look back and reflect on decades of progressive work undertaken by our citizens and our leaders that has improved our air and our quality of life. This astounding progress has been made possible by the same Clean Air Act under which the Clean Power Plan is rolled out. Critics have long argued that environmental regulations put an undue burden on businesses and harm the economy. But, the reality is far from this. From 1970 to 2012, the aggregate national emissions of six common pollutants dropped by 72% while gross domestic product grew by 219%. These are real numbers and we need to remind ourselves of these. How many of us think back and say, “only if we had not passed the Clean Air Act, we would have saved thousands of jobs”. My guess is none.
Presently, the pessimists have given us all worst-case scenarios to dissuade EPA from moving forward with the Clean Power Plan. These range from utility rate increases to grid reliability risks to undue burden on low-income households. We have also heard that it will have an irreparable impact on the economy and will increase jobless rate. While these critics talk, utilities, cities, and states have already begun the process to reduce emissions. And these are not your usual suspects. For example, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), under its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan, plans to add clean energy into the power grid and concludes that this effort will neither increase electricity costs nor disrupt the grid reliability or create blackouts. Locally, MidAmerican Energy plans to get 57% of its energy from wind through its latest renewable energy project.
No one has promised that the transition to a clean energy economy will be quick or easy. But it is a needed step to protect our ecosystem. Instead of putting barriers, we need to build each other up and focus our collective strength to devise solutions that result in marginal loss and maximum impact. If done right, clean energy can strengthen our economy, create jobs, and generate long-term real wealth. We cannot afford to protect the short-term interests of a few at the expense of the well-being of the common.
Seventeen years from now, we will look back and say this was a step in the right direction. And our future generations will thank our leaders of today for being bold, visionary, and having the courage to make tough choices.