A citizen-based environmental advocacy group called Environment California, is looking optimistically at a new analysis report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and is calling for the federal government to increase renewable electricity standards when they vote on an environmental bill sometime in the near future.
Along with 126 others, Rep. Lois Capps is co-sponsoring U.S. House of Representatives Bill HR 969, which would require electricity utility companies to increase their use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020. Right now California’s utility companies are operating at 12 percent, while the nation is at a meager 1 percent. A vote on the bill could come as early as next week.
David Lea, professor of paleoclimatology at UCSB, said at a press conference at the county courthouse Thursday that whatever movement the country was making to get away from using coal to produce electricity was a good thing. Despite the fact that there is enough coal to “get well into the next century,” the reserves will eventually be tapped, Lea said. The problem which remains, he said, is money. “If we want to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy, there is going to be an increase in cost,” he said. “The fact of the matter is coal power is cheap.”
Christine Elliott-a district representative for Capps filling in for the congresswoman, who is in Washington, D.C.-echoed one of Capps’ frequent rallying cries at the press conference. “There’s no way to drill ourselves out of the problem,” she said. She also applauded the group of mostly college students representing Environment California, saying the most important thing that can be done is to educate people, both on a local and national level. “[Rep. Capps] is going to fight to make sure clean energy is included in the environmental bill.”
The analysis by UCS, a science-based nonprofit with a focus on the environment, showed that if a 20 percent national standard were reached, 16,000 total renewable energy jobs would be created each year in manufacturing, construction and other industries. In addition, it would generate $1.41 billion cumulatively for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners who lease their land to wind developers or help produce biomass energy. The changes would also mean a cost savings for the consumer-$1.85 billion in lower electricity bills.
Nationally, the mandate would cut global warming pollution by 223 million metric tons each year, which is equal to 36.4 million cars being taken off the road. “Increasing our use of renewable energy would help clean up air pollution and make a down payment in the fight against global warming,” said Stephanie Harnett, Santa Barbara’s campaign coordinator for Environment California.