Monday, May 12, 2014

Fwd: Acting short-term, thinking long-term

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Kate Gordon" <>
Date: May 9, 2014 10:37 AM
Subject: Acting short-term, thinking long-term
To: <>

The thing about the energy transition is that it's going to take action on all fronts, both short-term and long-term.
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Acting short-term, thinking long-term

As usual, I'm missing all the action – I write from JFK airport, where I just landed after a redeye, and meanwhile President Obama is back in California talking up the clean energy economy.  The President is making rounds in the Bay Area, speaking at a Wal-Mart in Mountain View this morning to announce new commitments from the public and private sector to deploy solar and energy efficiency technologies; he's also highlighting new executive actions on energy efficiency in public buildings, training programs to help create a new solar labor force, and – perhaps the most underappreciated EE program of all time – smarter appliances.
Of these programs, I'm perhaps most excited about the workforce piece, which as I and others have long argued is a critical part of any serious transition to a new energy economy. Some of these workers just finished installing solar panels on the White House itself. (As an aside, I just learned the fascinating fact that one of the solar panels President Carter put up in 1979 is now on display at a science museum in Dezhou, China – a rare example of solar panels leaving here to go there, rather than vice versa. The panels currently on the White House, for those wondering, are American-made, though weirdly no one seems to know what company made them).
Solar is one of the big clean tech success stories of the past few years, with panels coming down in price enough to solidly compete with more traditional energy sources. But the sector isn't breathing easy: the American Legislative Exchange Council has made it their mission to fight renewable energy policies state-by-state (great overview of ALEC and these efforts here). ALEC's efforts to kill renewables stand in sharp contrast to the clarion call this week, in the 3rd National Climate Assessment (NCA), to wake up and smell the climate action coffee.   
If there's one clear takeaway from the NCA, it's this: climate change is a regional issue.  The report breaks down the U.S. into eight climate regions, which underscores just how different climate impacts are across this huge and diverse country of ours. Here in California and across much of the Southwest region, the story is all about water: "[S]evere and sustained drought will stress water sources, already over utilized in many areas, forcing increasing competition among farmers, energy producers, urban dwellers and plant and animal life for the region's most precious resource." (Our upcoming Risky Business report, coming in late June, will go into even greater detail on these regional disparities, and put costs and probabilities on the impacts in the NCA.)
The report prompted an editorial from the LA Times, which echoed the NCA message on the urgency of climate action, and urged state leaders Governor Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to find shorter-term projects for California's cap and trade program revenues, which must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the LAT noted, "it doesn't make sense to tie up so much of the state's cap-and-trade income in long-term projects [e.g. high speed rail, land use planning] when climate scientists insist that we need to move quickly and decisively." Instead, the editorial points to immediate projects like replacing diesel trucks, encouraging EVs, and installing solar arrays.
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