The environment was thankfully in the news a lot this week (if we can all ignore politicians’ ridiculous response to Bowe Bergdahl’s release and unnecessary coverage of Rihanna’s fashion choices) because Obama announced his target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal power plants by 30 percent by 2030. It’s great that the U.S. is finally taking climate action, but it’s important to note that it’s not that huge of a reduction. Slate’s Eric Holtaus explains that domestic carbon dioxide emissions have decreased due to an increase in natural gas use and coal exports. You should also read Grist’s explainer, which goes through what you need to know about the target. Hopefully this will only lead to more climate action (it really needs to be worldwide to have an actual impact) and hopefully businesses will stop complaining once they realize it won’t hurt the economy.
The political ramifications of this action could be interesting, however. Many coal-state Democrats (so disappointed by my girl Alison Lundergan Grimes) have denounced these actions and promised to protect coal and fight Obama on this because they’re worried about the midterms. And Democrats do need to be very worried about the midterms. But it’s important to note that 70 percent of Americans think that the government should limit greenhouse gases from existing power plants. And in battleground Senate states, more than 2/3 of voters think the EPA should limit pollution from power plants. Our politicians should pay attention to what real Americans are thinking (ugh I can’t believe I just referenced real America).
Also, the Department of Energy released a report that stated that exporting liquefied natural gas is a terrible idea, which we all knew already. Its leakage rate negates any climate benefit it has, and it’s not worth it to use the energy to liquefy it or transport it. Plus it displaces renewable energy, which we should all be focused on. Yet people still seem to champion LNGs like they’re the energy of the future.
On another note, I read an intriguing article this week about solar roads. It’s an idea that’s definitely way far in the future, but if we somehow replaced all of America’s roads with roads with solar roads, we would generate three times the energy that America uses in a year and release greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent. This is what we need as we fight climate change: great green technology. My AP Environmental Science teacher told me once that we don’t need environmental activists as much as we need environmental engineers. I’ve always felt a little guilty about not being sciencey enough to go in that direction, but hopefully that’s what our STEM education children will do in the next few years, come up with innovative ideas that will at least help mitigate climate change.