Just as I write this column comes the disheartening news that the Obama administration has called for opening vast tracts of the American seacoast to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. This is in addition to an earlier announcement from the President supporting the expansion of nuclear power generation in the U.S. This is evidently an effort to win political support from oil, gas, and nuclear interests in hopes of getting climate change legislation through Congress before the midterm elections in November.
Whether or not Obama’s political gambit is successful, there are several reasons to be dismayed. First of all, the climate change legislation that is now being considered is fairly weak and there are legitimate questions about whether or not the cap and trade system that is the cornerstone of the bill will work as planned. It’s too bad we can’t turn back the clock and resurrect to energy legislation that was introduced by Bill Clinton early in his presidency. That bill, with its carefully devised Btu tax, was the best energy policy yet proposed for America. Had we adopted it almost 20 years ago, our carbon footprint would surely be smaller than it is now.
Worst of all, this can’t be good news for development of renewable energy. We at the Schatz lab continue to believe that we can meet a large fraction of our energy needs with renewable sources. But we won’t be able to do so without a strong, sustained effort and that effort is undermined by a “business as usual” energy policy. Mr. President, we urge you to expand your efforts to develop renewable energy and please make sure those oil and gas people will help you out before dishing them out big favors.
National policy aside, we keep working on renewables. In this issue of our newsletter, Colin Sheppard reports on our efforts with the National Resources Defense Council to develop an energy metric for states so that states that demonstrate real energy savings can be rewarded. Meg Harper describes our work with Proton Energy Systems to test their new, more efficient electrolyzer cell stack. And Jim Zoellick provides updates on our HyTEC, Yurok, and RESCO projects. As Jim has reported earlier, RESCO is a real opportunity for Humboldt County to pioneer an energy system derived primarily from renewable sources.
As our northern hemisphere turns its face toward the sun, we wish you all some beautiful, sunny spring days.