A Call to Arms for Renewable Energy
Senate needs to pass a renewable electricity standard now
Published: Monday, November 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, November 4, 2013 13:11
Last week, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill to set a nationwide renewable electricity generation standard. The bill would require utilities across the country to produce a minimum of 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and tidal power.
This would be the first national renewable electricity standard to be introduced in the United States. Many individual states already have standards in place, such as the Udall cousins’ home states of New Mexico (20 percent by 2020) and Colorado (25 percent by 2025). Locally, only Minnesota has set a renewable electricity standard (31.5 percent by 2020), while North Dakota (10 percent by 2015) and South Dakota (10 percent by 2015) have only set objectives, which are not mandatory for privately owned utility companies to meet.
The national standard being proposed is modest compared to the most ambitious state standards currently in place. Those standards are being set by Hawaii (40 percent by 2030) and California (33 percent by 2020). And when compared to international standards, the proposal looks even more modest. Many countries, such as Germany, are already producing renewable electricity at the rates U.S. states have set for the future. One hundred thirty-eight countries around the world already have renewable electricity standards in place.
Regardless of international standards, this would be a major stepping stone for the United States. The statistic that the United States holds only 5 percent of the world’s population yet consumes 25 percent of its natural resources has been published and regurgitated to the point of cliché, yet it stands as a powerful reminder of how precarious our economic state is, and how far we have yet to go to reach a sustainable consumption rate.
The bill proposed by Tom and Mark Udall would set us on a path to reducing our consumption rate. Doing so has a range of benefits, across all tenets of sustainability—cultural, environmental and economic. Instituting a national renewable electricity standard would not only reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help to slow global warming; it would also create a significant number of new jobs, spur innovation—allowing further renewable development—and save consumers money.
New jobs would be created on a scale that cannot be ignored—anywhere from 275,000 to 300,000 new jobs could result from the development of a renewable electricity standard, over half of which would be in the manufacturing industry. Further economic benefits include over $100 billion of savings on consumers’ utility bills by 2030 and a boost to rural economies through the providing of over $13 billion to farmers and landowners in the form of lease payments. Local tax revenues would also increase by over $11 billion, helping to revitalize communities across the country.
The time is now to pass this bill. The Udall cousins have proposed renewable electricity standards bills while they were both members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but failed to get the bill instated as a law. If the United States is ever to transition from an economy based on ever-dwindling reserves of fossil fuel based energy and into an economy based on renewable forms of energy production, it needs to begin now.
Though the fossil fuel industry is dominant in the United States and it provides essential jobs across the nation, those jobs will not be present forever. Job creation will need to transition into renewable energy production to avoid a complete economic collapse when fossil fuels run out, and this bill will be able to begin that switch.
Hesitation in Washington is becoming a less and less viable option on the environmental front. The time for action is now, or never.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.