To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core belief

To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core belief

To tackle climate, experts say, environmentalists have to embrace big energy projects. Fast.


For decades, environmentalists have made their mark by stopping things. Petroleum facilities that spew toxic air pollution. Pipelines that cut across Indigenous lands. Drilling for oil and gas.

But climate change is about to change everything. To cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to zero, experts say, the country is going to have to do something environmentalists have traditionally opposed: It’s going to have to build a lot of energy infrastructure. And fast.

Right now, many roadblocks stand in the way of building wind, solar, and the transmission lines that can carry their power to city centers. And while Democrats have a bill in the works to speed that sort of permitting, most environmentalists oppose it — because it could also promote oil and gas development.

“We’re going to have to build a lot more of everything clean,” said Josh Freed, the director of climate and energy at the center-left think tank Third Way. “The United States has an infrastructure building crisis. We can no longer build anything big — let alone big and ambitious — in a reasonable time frame.”

To reach net-zero carbon emissions, according to a study by Princeton University, wind farms will have to spread across the Great Plains and the Midwest, covering an area equal to at least the states of Illinois and Indiana. Solar panels will sparkle across an area at least as large as Connecticut. And thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines will need to be built to carry all that power from where it’s generated — mostly in rural parts of the country — to urban centers far away.

And these projects need to be up and running soon. According to an analysis by the DecarbAmerica Project, solar and wind power in the U.S. will have to double in just the next eight years.

At the moment, however, a miasma of confusing regulations and local opposition have stymied many of these plans. Residents blocked the project to build wind farms off the coast of New England for decades, complaining it would ruin their ocean views. A transmission line from Pennsylvania to Maryland was blocked by Pennsylvania landowners who argued that the line wouldn’t provide sufficient benefits to their state.

Now a deal between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Democratic leaders could streamline energy permitting. During negotiations over the Inflation Reduction Act, the giant health and climate spending bill that passed Congress in August, Democrats promised Manchin that they would pass a separate bill this fall, to speed up the permitting process for building energy infrastructure — both fossil fuel and clean.

Some environmental groups have blasted the deal, arguing that it would expedite a key priority of Manchin’s, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 300-mile pipeline that would transfer natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia — and other fossil fuel projects. “Prolonging the fossil fuel era perpetuates environmental racism, is wildly out of step with climate science, and hamstrings our nation’s ability to avert a climate disaster,” more than 650 environmental groups wrote in a letter sent to Congress in late August. Meanwhile, a group of Appalachian activists are planning a march on D.C. next week to protest the permitting reform deal and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Here’s what President Biden’s doing to tackle climate change

But energy experts argue that, depending on the structure of the deal, permitting reform could help the U.S. switch over to clean energy — and ultimately benefit renewables more than fossil fuels.

For example, Liza Reed, the research manager for electricity transmission at the center-right think tank Niskanen Center, argues that building a more connected electric grid is absolutely essential to cut carbon emissions. Wind and solar energy, she points out, are rarely located in the same place where power is needed. “We need to build transmission very quickly and very dramatically,” she said. “There’s no two ways about it.”

One thing that could help, Reed argues, is giving the federal government authority to approve the construction of big, high-voltage transmission lines. At the moment, power lines have to get approval from every state that they cross, including states that may not benefit much from having gigantic power lines weaving over their homes and buildings. Federal authority would allow the government to rubber-stamp transmission lines without getting into the local and state regulatory morass. (Similar authority already exists for natural gas pipelines.)


Continue reading at The Washington Post

(Better to read at site for related images to load as well, and also see Bill McKibben’s article posted after this one where he discusses this…)

By |2022-09-05T11:09:36-04:00September 2, 2022|Climate Action, Climate Emergency, News & Information|Comments Off on To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core belief

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We Ourselves, Our Children, Animal Species, and Biodiversity deserve a sustainable, safe, healthy and extinction free planet. We must work together to overcome the hurdles and obstacles that are currently preventing this all for the sake of greed, need, and other special interest. We must as it is now a dire necessity. We all have a right to life. || "The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein
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