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An erosion of principled responsibility

Whatever happened to Arizona’s support for policies to protect our environment? Where has our sense of environmental responsibility gone?

It wasn’t that long ago when our policymakers worked to find solutions to clean our air and eliminate the brown cloud that hung over our homes, schools and businesses. Bi-partisan solutions were offered to address the growing health crisis from the burning of fossil fuels, and to instead inject clean fuels and electrons into the system to benefit the economy, our air, our health, and our environment.

There was the leadership at the national level by US Senator John McCain, who was one of the Senate’s biggest climate champions. He introduced a bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman to create a “cap and trade” system on carbon emissions--before flip-flopping on the issue in a move to win over tea-party types in Arizona’s 2010 Republican US Senate primary.

Arizona leaders gave us the Environmental Portfolio Standard, a mechanism to help guide our transition to a cleaner future by unlocking the potential of technological innovation in renewable energy.

But our current crop of short-sighted leaders just don’t get it. Armed with talking points from the fossil fuel industry, these leaders push the manufactured storyline that a solution like rooftop solar is somehow going to be the downfall of our way of life unless we can stop it from picking our pockets.

This messaging and similar talking points from climate deniers has been polluting our airwaves for the past two years.

Take as an example the winter before last which brought us the spectacle of a US Senator holding up a snowball on the floor of the Senate as a prop while arguing that climate change must be a hoax, because see, here's a snowball. Or the 18 Arizona state senators that two years ago voted for a bill to nullify all rules, including clean air and water requirements, imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Or the votes by Arizona Corporation Commission regulators to slow solar adoption by changing net metering laws and the SRP Board of Directors to implement demand charges on solar homeowners for the purported reason that solar users "weren't paying their fair share."

These antics and votes come at the same time the societal and climatic disruptions caused by the burning of fossil fuels are actually threatening all life as we know it. 

You don’t have to look any further than our own backyard to see the effects in the bark beetle infestation in old-growth pine forests in northern Arizona, or the decreasing water flowing through our rivers, lakes, dams, canals and into our cities.

Record drought, wildfires and killer heatwaves clearly illustrate that the impact of climate change isn’t limited to the polar ice caps or the hurricanes that pound coastal regions. The impacts are being felt everywhere, and they constitute a very real threat.

The costs of these climatic events projected into the future are staggering, yet deniers argue that it is the proposed solutions that will be ruinous, leading to economic calamity. They argue that a clean energy revolution will cost billions in higher utility bills. Yet they ignore the billions spent on health-related costs of respiratory and heart illnesses stemming from the environmental damage resulting from our continued reliance on fossil fuels–even as solar energy is proving affordable as prices continue to decline. Today more Americans are employed in the solar industry than in the coal industry, and the industry is pumping nearly $20 billion a year into the US economy.

We’ve witnessed this reluctance to change course many times before–witness the auto industry’s arguments against catalytic converters and fuel efficiency standards, where their dire warnings of potential job losses and higher costs never materialized.

It’s time our policy makers re-embrace a clean energy future. We need energy efficiency resource and renewable portfolio standards, building energy codes, energy benchmarking and disclosure laws, net metering and utility incentives. We need financing policies that encourage energy savings performance contracting, third-party ownership for solar, on-bill repayment, and PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).

A clean energy future should embrace all forms of energy solutions, business models and ownership formulas–as long as the energy resources are clean, reliable and affordable. It ought not matter whether the clean electron comes from a homeowner’s rooftop, a utility community solar project, a large scale solar plant in the Southwest, or a wind farm in the Midwest.

The multi-faceted benefits from these solutions are clear--but the bottom line is, there is no Plan(et) B.

Jim Arwood
Communications Director

Arizona Solar Center

Question: Will Climate Change Policy be a major campaign issue in the upcoming Presidential election?

Superseding Sustainability
The Politics of Climate Change

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