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Another Voice: Sane reduction in the use of fossil fuels is possible

By Philip Wilcox

Whether or not an avalanche of scientific experts is wrong about climate change and it is in fact a hoax, I don’t think anyone will argue that there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Estimates vary, but multiple decades for sure.

Fossil fuels are a critical part of our global and U.S. economies, yet have been regarded by some as a scourge that must be immediately eradicated.

I have attended dozens of energy and transportation forums where people who espouse this extremism drive away in their fossil-propelled vehicles.

One example of extremism is in Germany, where extraordinary investments into renewable energy have occurred over the past two decades, along with goals to eliminate all nuclear (zero carbon) generators.

The results have more than doubled retail electric rates there, while increasing carbon emissions due to the need to utilize coal generation to stabilize the grid from intermittency.

In 2014, German electricity suppliers sent 6.3 million dunning letters for delayed payments, and disconnected 351,802 households from the electricity grid for not being able to pay their electricity bills, according to Germany’s Federal Net Agency.

In New York, recent approval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard (CES) is a pragmatic model for recognizing the value of existing zero-carbon nuclear power generation, and the ability to apply a gradual, sane, cost-effective reduction of fossil fuel use through steady investment in renewables – one that is well within the parameters of net carbon reduction to meet internationally agreed upon targets.

New York has balanced energy costs of new renewable energy development while meeting fossil fuel reduction targets through the recently approved CES. Our governor yet again showed leadership while pushing past the bluster of uneducated zealots.

A plan to extend the availability of limited fossil fuels for future generations through steady reduction of use – while cost-effective and sustainable zero-carbon technologies that don’t implode our economy and society continue to merge into the power grid – is simply the responsible thing to do, at the very least.

And it is a win-win near term to replace coal with more cost-effective natural gas: half the carbon emissions and much cleaner air.

The United States moves closer to energy independence through technology advances in domestic natural gas and oil extraction. Prices have plummeted for both – great news for business and households – but also the ideal time to continue steady integration of cost-effective renewable energy and turn our attention to transportation as well.

The United States has been so successful to date that transportation now exceeds power generation for carbon emissions through fossil fuel use.
We now need to focus on responsible transportation policies that mimic the successes of power generation.

Philip Wilcox is business representative of IBEW Local 97, president of the Niagara Greenspace Consortium and an NFTA commissioner.

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