The League of Women Voters supports an accelerated transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the interest of preserving a habitable planet. Thus, the League supported the Gainesville City Commission’s 2018 resolution establishing a goal of providing 100% of the city’s electricity from renewable resources and its Climate Emergency Declaration confirming a commitment “to end citywide greenhouse-gas emissions as quickly as possible.”
Both actions were cheered by environmentalists and jeered by climate change deniers. People in the middle were mostly silent. The sound of silence may be one reason that Gainesville and Alachua County’s progress toward renewables has been slow.
Bill McKibben reminds us that a slow response is a failed response. So, how to pick up speed? Public silence needs to be replaced by audible advocacy. Fortunately, there are reasons to act that do not require the words “climate change.”
Economic arguments are among the most compelling. Bruce Usher, in his book, “Renewable Energy: A Primer for the Twenty-First Century,” says, “Many of the economic consequences of the transition to renewable energy will be positive, especially for employment.” For example, job growth in renewable energy in 2017 was greater than growth in the fossil fuel industry.
Not all consequences will be positive. People will lose jobs. Therefore, industries and governments must provide training and other support programs to prepare the soon to be displaced with the skills required by clean energy production.
Most people ignore utilities until they fail, as happened in Texas in February, or when energy bills force a choice between heat and food. Renewable energy is increasingly good news for these bill payers. As the leadership of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum says, “Clean Energy = Cheap Energy.”
Admittedly renewables will require costly investment in infrastructure. If renewables went away tomorrow that investment would still be necessary. Replacing an aging, collapsing grid by investing in a grid for the 21st century makes dollars and sense.
Those made rich by fossil fuels continue to subvert the clean energy transition, and a public raised with the automobile is vulnerable to their subversion. Data-based education about the advantages and inevitability of renewable energy is the best defense. Providing such education is a principal mission of the League of Women Voters.
On March 24 at 5:30 p.m., the Climate Action Team of the Alachua County League will host the third in a series of virtual forums (register at https://bit.ly/37OUHxh). This one is devoted to Gainesville’s progress from fossil fuels to renewable energy, what the transition means for citizens and what individuals can do to help.
Erica Chenoweth famously observed that successful social movements require action by 3.5% of a population. Public advocacy for a clean energy transition is yet to reach that 3.5% goal. Attending the March forum may motivate you to add your voice.
Time is short. If we keep kicking this can down the road, we may end up with a molten can and no road.
— Jay Rosenbek is chair of the Natural Resources Committee and co-chair of the Climate Action Team for the League of Women Voters of Alachua County, and Lynn Frazier is president of the group.