Home Energy and Environment Video: MA Gov. Deval Patrick Calls for “future free of fossil fuels”;...

Video: MA Gov. Deval Patrick Calls for “future free of fossil fuels”; What About VA?

253
0
SHARE

In a speech Friday at the UMass Amherst Commencement Address, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called for a “future free of fossil fuels.” For a transcript of the climate and clean energy portion of Patrick’s speech, see the “flip” of this post. A few key lines include the following, below this intro.

Where it says Massachusetts, imagine inserting the word “Virginia” – or any other state – and imagine Gov. Terry McAuliffe – or any other governor – saying them. Because that’s what it’s going to take to deal with the #1 threat to humanity and to the ecosystems on which the planet’s life (including our own) depends; collective action across this country.

Here in Virginia, we should start by ditching any thought of offshore drilling for fossil fuels, and replace that with a crash program of offshore wind turbine installation. We should also move away from coal as rapidly as possible, harnessing the enormous potential of energy efficiency, as well as solar power on rooftops, schools, government facilities, putting a price on carbon, etc, etc. Of course, doing all this will require our “leaders” to take on powerful forces like Dominion Virginia Power and the coal companies, but as uncomfortable as that might make them politically, that’s exactly what they absolutely must do.

The history books and future generations will rightfully judge today’s “leaders” harshly if they fail to act. Leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick, on the contrary, should and likely will be hailed as heroes and visionaries. Thank you to Gov. Patrick for his leadership in this crucial area; now what about all the governors of all the states?

*”…we cannot continue to consume so much of the world’s energy and take so little responsibility for the impact of that consumption on the lives of others, and the life of the planet itself.”

*”We knew that if we harnessed Massachusetts-grown energy sources, reduced our energy consumption and protected our natural resources, we could strengthen both the environment and our economy.”

*”Working with other states through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we have lowered carbon emissions throughout the region and demonstrated that a market based cap-and-trade approach works…our economy is not just unharmed but stronger.”

*”We must redouble our efforts to get our electricity from clean power sources like wind, solar and hydropower, including by changing the laws that effectively limit the production, affordability and use by homeowners and businesses of clean alternative sources, and passing the hydro/wind bill now pending in the Legislature.”

*”And we should double down on energy efficiency”

*”In fact, the time has come to set a new standard that ensures that, at every point in time, at every moment, we are getting the cleanest energy possible. It means energy efficiency first. It means zero-emission electricity next – solar, wind, and hydro.”

*“What’s the best? The best is a future free of fossil fuels. It’s an economy driven by homegrown, independent sources of renewable energy, cutting edge technology, and hyper-efficient cars and buildings. It’s a future within our grasp. We don’t have to wait for disaster: the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, but because humankind imagined a better way and then reached for it.”

Surely no policy choice before this community, this Commonwealth and this Nation is more emblematic than climate change. For we cannot continue to consume so much of the world’s energy and take so little responsibility for the impact of that consumption on the lives of others, and the life of the planet itself.

Only this week, the Obama administration released a report, co-authored by over 300 independent scientists, which catalogued the evidence of climate change and its impact. The assessment demonstrates that climate change is an issue right now, not just for future generations. The impacts are being felt in all corners of the country and in a range of manifestations, including heat waves, coastal flooding, intense precipitation, and more extreme storms. And those weather changes have implications for our economy, transportation, energy, water, agriculture, ecosystems and oceans.

Most of these conclusions are not new. We are already seeing more severe weather extremes in our Commonwealth and our region, more hurricanes and wildfires, more coastal damage and blizzards.

Starting seven years ago, with that future in mind, we in Massachusetts took a fresh look at our energy reality. We knew that if we harnessed Massachusetts-grown energy sources, reduced our energy consumption and protected our natural resources, we could strengthen both the environment and our economy.

I am proud of the progress we have made and the example we have set for the Nation:

In 2007, we had just over 3 megawatts of solar capacity; today we have nearly 500 megawatts installed, and will more than triple that by 2020.

In 2007, we had just over 3 megawatts of wind capacity; today, we have installed 103 megawatts of land-based wind and are poised to become home to the Nation’s first offshore wind farm.

We’ve tripled the energy we’re saving from efficiency initiatives and today lead the Nation in energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Working with other states through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we have lowered carbon emissions throughout the region and demonstrated that a market based cap-and-trade approach works.

Between 2000 and 2012, the electricity generated from coal in New England dropped from 18% to 3%; electricity generated from oil is down from 22% to less than 1%. We have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 16% below 1990 levels already, and are well on our way to our goal of reducing emissions by fully 25% by the year 2020.

And our economy is not just unharmed but stronger.  While the US economy was at a standstill in the first quarter of 2014, Massachusetts grew at a healthy 2.6% rate; and, in the last quarter of 2013, Massachusetts grew 69% faster than the nation. Indeed, with over 5,500 clean energy firms and nearly 80,000 clean energy workers, Massachusetts now has one of the strongest clean energy job markets in the nation.

But we can do more.

In January, I announced a plan to coordinate climate preparedness. By January 2015, we will have a plan to make our transportation systems, energy facilities and coastal communities more resilient.

Three of the so-called “filthy five” coal burning power plants in Massachusetts have been retired in the last few years. Two remain: Brayton Point in the South Coast region and Mt. Tom, just down the road. Within the next four years, both should shut down and Massachusetts should finally end all reliance on conventional coal generation.

As we migrate to cleaner natural gas, we should be mindful of the hazards of pipeline leaks to our immediate safety and also to the environment. A bill pending in the Legislature today would compel utilities to repair that infrastructure. We should pass it. And we should compel that same care around leaks of both methane at the source of extraction.

Our solar and wind generation has increased by great multiples in the last several years. We must redouble our efforts to get our electricity from clean power sources like wind, solar and hydropower, including by changing the laws that effectively limit the production, affordability and use by homeowners and businesses of clean alternative sources, and passing the hydro/wind bill now pending in the Legislature.

We have to migrate from the dependence on fossil fuels in transportation to the use of electric cars, buses and trains. Not only are these cleaner than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles today, but they will also get even cleaner as the means by which we generate that electricity gets cleaner.

And we should double down on energy efficiency. Massachusetts leads the Nation in energy efficiency. And yet here in a state filled with old homes and other buildings I meet people all the time – including many ardent environmental advocates – who have not even bothered to get the free energy audit from their local utility company. Changing out the light bulbs or adding some insulation, at the expense of your utility company, is a simple way for us to have a huge aggregate impact on reducing greenhouse gases and reversing the effects of climate change.

In fact, the time has come to set a new standard that ensures that, at every point in time, at every moment, we are getting the cleanest energy possible. It means energy efficiency first. It means zero-emission electricity next – solar, wind, and hydro. It means lower-emission electricity last – natural gas, an imperfect choice but best of the fossil fuels. And it means high-emissions sources never.

This is what we call a “clean energy standard,” and we should set one for our state that puts us on a path to reduce our emissions by fully 80 percent by mid-century. It’s not the ideal today, but it will get us there tomorrow. It’s how we move from good to better to best.

What’s the best? The best is a future free of fossil fuels. It’s an economy driven by homegrown, independent sources of renewable energy, cutting edge technology, and hyper-efficient cars and buildings. It’s a future within our grasp. We don’t have to wait for disaster: the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, but because humankind imagined a better way and then reached for it.

Our clean energy future won’t happen overnight, because it can’t. But it will happen, because it must. And it will be up to you.

Which brings me back to citizenship. Good citizens would no more carelessly compromise the air and water we share with one another and future generations, than we would heave a bag of trash over the fence into our neighbor’s yard.