By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The headlines haven’t been particularly friendly for President Obama for a while now but Monday he went a long way toward cementing one of the more promising parts of his legacy.
I’m speaking of a new set of regulations on coal-fired power plants that aim to reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2030. It’s a landmark achievement if it happens and requires no small amount of political bravery to push in an election year where endangered Democrats in coal-friendly states are trying desperately to hold onto their seats — and by proxy, the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Conservatives responded with their usual howls of indignation that the regulations will put Americans out of work but look just past the partisan rhetoric in Washington and you’ll find a huge majority of Americans who aren’t elected to federal office in agreement with the president’s position and the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted at the end of May found 70 percent of voters, including a majority 56 percent of Republicans, agree the government must do more to curb carbon emissions. And furthermore, they’re willing to put some skin in the game. When asked whether they would continue to favor such rules if it meant an increase of $20 per month in their energy bills, 69 percent still said yes.
When was the last time seven in 10 Americans agreed on anything perceived as controversial?
Republicans — and some opportunistic Democrats seeking to convince voters in conservative states they don’t like the president, either — are shilling for the energy industry. They’re doing so standing naked in the gaze of history. As more and more Americans reach the same level of consensus the scientific community did years ago about the real threat posed by climate change those opposed will appear all the more foolish for supporting technology perfected during the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution while the rest of society embraces the 21st century Digital Revolution.
I’ve got nothing but respect for coal miners for doing a dangerous, difficult job. But the reality is those jobs will fall by the wayside no matter what we do. A century from now burning coal to make electricity will seem as antiquated as using actual torches to light the streets at night. Technology will make coal obsolete. So why not use the power of the federal government to transition our energy infrastructure to more economically viable and environmentally necessary forms of energy production?
The reality is the cost to produce solar energy has dropped substantially, as has wind power. The debate over the environmental ramifications from drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing remains intense with both sides presenting arguments for and against it. But if we can find a way to do it safely — and incumbent in saying that is offering concrete proof to an American public rightfully skeptical of energy companies’ claims — it would also help build the bridge to a clean energy future.
It’s head-in-the-sand politics — a particularly crass version of it, I might add — when men and women seeking to win votes bash sensible government policies aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, preserving a planet for future generations and creating an economy that includes better paying jobs in the process.
We can replace the jobs in the fossil fuel sectors with smarter ones that will last for more than a generation while stemming the effects of climate change before it’s really too late.
Strip away the politics of self preservation and it’s a win for all parties involved. The American people know it. Now it’s just a matter of making those opposed to it pay a political price for their position on an issue so many of us see as a no-brainer.
Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.