The legislature’s secret energy bill: For our children and grandchildren, we simply must do better
In these divided, tumultuous and, occasionally, frightening times we inhabit, one powerful source of shared solace and hope for people of all identities and beliefs is this: We humans love our children and grandchildren.
We may differ sharply on countless social, political, religious and ethical issues, but when it comes to our kids and their future, there is precious little to distinguish two gay parents of color living in the bluest corner of the Upper West Side of Manhattan from a Christian conservative mom and dad residing in the reddest enclave of rural North Carolina (or, for that matter from devout Muslim parents living in the outskirts of Tehran or irreligious parents residing in a Tokyo high-rise).
Every adult with a modicum of basic humanity can think of a child they know or have known (whether it’s their child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a cousin, a God child or just a friend or neighbor) whom they want to have a shot at living a long, healthy and fulfilling life.
And, of course, the Number One prerequisite for living such a life is a having place to live it. If the planet that nearly 8 billion humans currently call home were destroyed by a meteor or incinerated in a thermonuclear war, most of life as we know it would end.
Even if we agree on little else, it seems we share at least a small spit of common ground by acknowledging that such an end is to be avoided and that preserving the planet as a place for future generations to inhabit (and maybe even enjoy) would be a good thing.
And, if we accept the proposition that we should do all we can to prevent a cataclysmic event that would suddenly end life as we know it, it seems equally logical to conclude that we should do all we can to address other fundamental threats to long-term human survival – be they pandemics, the poisoning of our air and water, or most immediately and ominously in the summer of 2021, the global climate emergency.
It’s a terrifying truth to contemplate, but it’s simply undeniable that global climate change has become an existential emergency for humanity.
As of today, 189 nations are in formal accord with the proposition spelled out in the Paris Agreement that: “Climate change is a global emergency that goes beyond national borders.”
The science that underlies this frightening conclusion is so unassailable that it’s even widely accepted and endorsed by an array of giant fossil fuel producers like Shell Oil and Chevron.
As the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently put it in blunt terms, the world is “on the verge of the abyss” if humans don’t move to make huge reductions in carbon pollution by the end of the current decade.
At such a moment, few if any of the globe’s corporate citizens bears greater responsibility to embrace rapid wholesale change than North Carolina-based Duke Energy. Duke is one of the world’s largest utilities and one of the biggest producers of fossil fuel pollution in the U.S.
It is a vital matter of life and death for the human species that Duke (and other giant polluters like it) abandon fossil fuel combustion as quickly as possible.
Tragically, however, despite its awesome responsibility, Duke is dragging its feet. As Policy Watch environmental reporter Lisa Sorg explained in detail last week, a new bill at the General Assembly secretly negotiated between the company and GOP legislators would actually pave the way for a new expansion of fossil fuel-fired power plants that rely on the combustion of fracked natural gas.
Attorney Gudrun Thompson of the Southern Environmental Law Center – one of the many experts frozen out of the process that went into developing the proposal – said the bill “will produce a windfall for Duke Energy shareholders while locking in polluting fossil fuels and failing to meet North Carolina’s clean energy and climate goals.”
A statement released by the group Environment North Carolina put it this way:
The bill would mandate the construction of 3,500 megawatts of new fracked gas plants, locking North Carolina into dirty energy generation for decades.”
This is not to say that the bill is utterly without merit. Its proposals to provide early retirement for five coal-fired power plants and ramp up solar energy production are welcome and important.
But, ultimately, the legislation is way too modest in its ambition.
As scientific expert after scientific expert has testified repeatedly, when it comes to the climate emergency, the world is well past the point at which half measures and secret “compromises” crafted between profit-driven polluters like Duke and Dominion Energy and a handful politicians – many of whom were elected with financial support from those same companies – can come close to adequately addressing the situation.
Even with swift and truly heroic action, the climate crisis is going to worsen significantly in the coming decades. Without it, we will likely condemn our children and grandchildren to an irreversible catastrophe. Surely no amount of profit or near-term comfort is worth that.
For the good of all the world’s children and the planet we hope they will inhabit, state leaders must reject the plan and commence a new and open process to develop a truly just bill immediately.
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