When I was a child I loved Joan Lexau’s That’s Good, That’s Bad picture story book. The book begins:
Boy was just sitting on a rock in the jungle when along came Tiger. “Run,” said Tiger. “And I will run after you. And I will catch you. And I will eat you, Boy. So run from me.”
Boy just sat there and looked at Tiger. “Eat me then,” said Boy. “I have no more run in me.”
Boy then relates why he has no more run in him, for he has had a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs involving, among other things, a rhino and a crocodile. Each escape (That’s good!) lands Boy in a new danger (That’s bad!). After Boy relates his tale to Tiger, it is indeed easy to see why Boy has no more run in him.
Those of us in renewable energy and sustainability fields certainly can relate to Boy. The wind energy tax credit extension passed with the fiscal cliff deal (That’s good!). According to Renewable Energy World, “The extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) is expected to save up to 37,000 jobs and create far more over time, and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country.”
Ecotech Institute’s Wind Energy Instructor Walter Christmas further explains, “Although the PTC has only been extended for one year, the deadline is different in nature. Projects only need to be initiated by the end of 2013, instead of completed. This means that many more projects can be included in this round of subsidies as long as they have broken ground by year’s end. This will go very far in stabilizing growth in general and allowing for better planning and installation of turbines. Domestic manufacturing will benefit from this stabilization by meeting demand of a more steady nature thus reducing their costs and bringing down the cost to wind farm owners, utilities, and end users. We should see wind become even more competitive on a dollar-per-kilowatt-hour basis with coal and natural gas.”
The world is expected to burn as much coal as oil by 2017 (That’s bad!). As New Scientist reports, “Our addiction to fossil fuels shows no sign of waning. An International Energy Agency report predicts that global coal use will continue to grow over the next five years.” This is terrible news for our climate, as coal produces more greenhouse gas per unit of energy than any other fossil fuel.
A new study suggests 99.9 percent renewables is feasible and cost-effective (That’s good!). As reported by IEEE.org, “A study by researchers at the University of Delaware modeled how well renewables could sustain a big chunk of the U.S. grid—72 gigawatts worth, where the entire country has a capacity just north of 1000 GW—and found as high as 99.9 percent reliability at reasonable costs.” The report itself concludes, “At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90 to 99.9 percent of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today’s.”
So what’s the bad news?
Congressional effectiveness is at an all-time low, just when we need it to be operating at maximum. I had to do some Google searching to find a politically neutral source for this claim. Yes, the Foreign Policy article referenced dates from 2011, but 2012 was even worse, as everything from official voting records to public approval ratings clearly show.
Politics certainly has been at its worst this past year, with partisan polarization and the demonization of clean tech leading to a massive Congressional coronary and one step forward/two steps back for the sustainability movement.
“I have no more run in me,” says the Boy in all of us.
But just like in children’s books, we can author our own happy ending to the “That’s good, that’s bad” politics as usual. Businesses continue to lead the way, even when governments fail, and it is increasingly obvious to all but the most politically jaded that sustainability and clean tech make dollars and sense. Continue voting for clean tech with your dollars and ballots and like Boy, we will ultimately escape the rhinos, crocodiles, and tigers (oh, my).
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at email@example.com.