Opinion

There’s still time to protect the planet

August marks the first anniversary of the Clean Power Plan, the first effort by any president to help us begin the long process of reducing our use of fossil fuels and moving to clean renewable energy.

As a small business owner in the energy efficiency/renewable energy industry for 11 years, I have a vested interest in helping homeowners and businesses become more energy efficient. But when you think about it, we all have a vested interest in transitioning to a renewable energy economy. And it is companies like Envinity that are ready to carry the torch. Three of us started this company 11 years ago. We now have more than 20 people employed here in Pennsylvania, and a small pilot office in Florida, and we are working on various projects in five different states. While we have seen steady growth over our early years, we are now poised for more substantial and sustainable expansion. We work in the residential, commercial, health care, education and industrial sectors; deploying energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy installations.

Climate scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades that climate change poses the greatest risk to our economy, our natural resources and the fabric of our nation that we have ever faced. Could 97 percent of the climate scientists be wrong? I for one am unwilling to gamble with my family’s future, so I am committed to being involved in the clean energy revolution that is sweeping our country.

And the president’s Clean Power Plan has the potential to drive that revolution. Every president since Richard Nixon has decried our dependence on oil. The CPP addresses our oil addiction by requiring cars and light trucks to get a fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg by the year 2025. To help meet this goal, Chevrolet will begin selling an electric car in 2017 that gets more than 200 miles on a single charge. Tesla’s luxury Model S sedan already gets more than 215 miles on a charge and next year they will begin producing a more affordable car at $35,000 that also gets more than 215 miles per charge.

The CPP is also driving the solar energy industry by requiring new and existing power plants that burn coal and gas to reduce carbon pollution. Just this past year, the number of workers in the solar industry exceeded the number of workers in the coal industry, and the solar industry is growing by 20 percent per year. Just think of this: Coal now provides 33 percent of electrical generation. Solar provides less than 1 percent, yet the solar industry now employs more workers than coal. Just imagine how many more people we could put back to work if our politicians focused on renewable energy instead of trying to keep the fossil fuel industry afloat. The fossil fuel industry is machinery intensive while the solar energy industry is people intensive. What’s even better, solar is as clean an energy source as we could possibly have. We all know that every place the fossil fuel industry has been, they’ve left a legacy of polluted air and water and a degraded landscape.

Unfortunately, our elected representatives are hindering the transition to clean energy by continuing to oppose the Clean Power Plan. Although our country invented the modern solar photovoltaic cell, we are only fourth in installed solar capacity, behind China, Germany and Japan. China has surged to the forefront and is now the world leader, by a substantial margin, in solar capacity. They understand their reliance on coal is harming their people and are now committed to greatly reducing their dependence on this dirty fuel.

There is no question that fossil fuels enabled our country to grow into the greatest nation on Earth. But that growth has come at great cost. Climate scientists forecast that unless we greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we will be experiencing temperatures that the planet has not seen for millions of years. Within the next 90 years, Pennsylvania will have the climate of Alabama, with nearly the entire summer more than 90 degrees F.

None of us wants a polluted environment. We all want the same thing: a safe, secure clean environment to raise our families. Taking action to reduce carbon pollution is the best thing we can do to safeguard that future. We still have the time and the means to protect the planet from the worst impacts from a warming world. All we need is for our elected representatives, who claim they are not climate scientists, to begin listening to the ones who are.

Brian Henderson is manager of renovation and energy services at Envinity.

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