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Last week we discussed some basic ideas of how to reduce your carbon emissions. To reach the goal of slowing down the heating of our atmosphere, we also need to take a look at how much carbon we generate and find even more ways to reduce it. Our carbon dioxide emissions per person are about 3 times the world average so we can be real leaders in becoming more efficient and far less damaging to the atmosphere.
I suggest you take the time and calculate your carbon footprint – it is an informative process that will take about 20 minutes and will tell you where to focus your efforts. You will probably find that your main uses are for transportation (fuel) and for heating and cooling your home (usually with natural gas, oil, coal, or electricity – generated from a range of fuels). Each of us has a big opportunity for reducing our carbon footprint by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and moving toward solar and wind generated electricity.
There has been a big effort over the past decade to deregulate utilities to allow you more choice in what energy supplier you use. Many states have deregulated their energy suppliers. They include New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, Rhode Island, D.C., and Ohio. https://www.saveonenergy.com/state-information/
After deregulation, we electricity consumers lucky enough to be in one of those states have been able to change suppliers. Our local utility still delivers electricity to our home but we stopped buying our energy from them since they largely generate energy from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and nuclear. We decided to switch to solar and wind suppliers. This took only a few minutes to do – all online. For the past 10 years we have used various vendors at a cost comparable to our local utility. If you are in one of these states you can probably do this too. Check out Inspire, Green Mountain Energy, Clean Choice, etc. There are dozens of firms who can supply you with clean and renewable energy. This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to lower your carbon emissions and help accelerate the movement toward renewables.
This past year another option has become available to us living in Maryland – you might want to check it out where you live. There are community solar firms who you can sign up with who build local solar arrays and sell you their electricity. The one we signed up with is Neighborhood Sun, but there are others – check them out.
Both options reduce the burning of fossil fuels and are very simple to sign up for. We also found out that it is easy to switch back to the utility if desired. We have never had a disruption in service and have dramatically lowered our carbon footprint.
I was “in” the fossil fuel industry for years, so I know a little bit about it. They have been very successful in meeting our energy needs – which is great. They have accomplished this because we helped them to meet our energy needs. The Federal government helped out the fossil fuel industry by incentivizing them to a great deal. That is how corporate socialism works. But let’s all acknowledge that we and the fossil fuel companies have been getting away with dumping their/our combustion waste products into the air for free for over 100 years. This may have been understandable and beneficial when there were far fewer people on the Earth. Today this practice has caught up with us and we are now severely damaging our health, our economy, and our future.
Fortunately, there are other economical and cleaner energy options available to us today. We can stop burning these valuable resources and either use them for other purposes or keep them in the ground as a strategic resource in case we need them in the future. Hopefully, by then we will have learned how to use them with less harmful effects to our health and our future.
One way to accomplish a transition from our current, near total dependence on fossil fuels to a much greater use of clean and renewable energy alternatives is to implement a national “carbon cap” or a “carbon fee” to pay for the real and hidden costs to society of using these dirty fuels. Applying true costs to fossil fuel usage will allow the market to implement a smooth transition to alternatives. Last year we saw the majority of economists across the political spectrum endorse this strategy. After many years of debate they have concluded that “a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary”. They went on to say that “by correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future”.
What are we waiting for? We just need to do it. Even Exxon/Mobil has supported this approach – of course the devil is in the details… the speed that the fee is implemented will be hotly contested. But the first thing we need to do is to get all the voices at the table to encourage the passage of one of these macro-economic tools ASAP. To get involved you can join/support the Citizens Climate Lobby, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, or others and keep pushing your representatives to support the passage of one of these carbon emission solutions (bills). This needs to happen now and we need to hold our representatives in DC accountable. I hope that each of you will get even more active today and then vote with climate issues foremost in your mind.
When I was growing up in Albany, NY, the undeveloped “lot” down the street was a magical place to neighborhood children. Its trees and bushes, paths and rocks provided the backdrop for endless games of knights and ladies, cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, and much more. (Revisiting it as an adult, I was amazed to discover that our playground occupied less than half an acre, or two house lots.)
Many, if not most, adults have such memories of special places and want (more…)