On the other hand, a comprehensive clean energy policy can unleash America’s can-do-spirit and harness abundant renewable energy resources giving our farmers and foresters new business opportunities through sustainable biomass production. A new report jointly authored by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the World Resources Institute finds strong renewable energy potential in our region that can create tens of thousands of new jobs and attract more regional energy investment.
Despite this vast potential and polls confirming that Americans feel climate and energy policy will result in new jobs, some Southeastern members of Congress remain undecided on whether to follow the President’s bold leadership to a clean energy economy. During hearings this year:
Rep. Butterfield of North Carolina questioned whether states like North Carolina and others in the southeast are ready for renewable energy, despite the fact that his state passed a renewable energy standard back in 2007.
Rep. Gordon of Tennessee suggested the national renewable energy standard proposed within this bill could be “punitive” for some regions, even though all regions have some renewable energy potential using solar, wind and biomass resources while fewer than half the states mine coal for consumption and export.
Rep. Barrow of Georgia declared that you could “pick the state (of Georgia) clean of trees” and not meet proposed renewable energy mandates, yet Georgia’s biomass and offshore wind potential alone could replace at least 25% of the coal currently imported and burned for electricity in Georgia.
It’s very disappointing that a newly-proposed draft of this legislation contained a critical provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp. by exempting it (and other coal-plant constructing utilities) from having to spend millions of dollars to outfit its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with “clean coal” technology. I’m hopeful that loopholes such as this, loopholes big enough to drive a coal train through, will be removed during the committee discussion and mark-up process set to begin the week of May 11.
Congress has a critical role to play right now, and leaders from our region can be a part of this transformation or can passively endorse the status quo. It is past time for Congress to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that creates jobs, strengthens our security, protects public health and protects the planet. Further delay is no longer an option – now is the time for action.