DARYL HANNAH AND DIANE MOSS: The U.S. federal government is failing its citizens by not developing a comprehensive energy policy that ensures secure, economical and reliable energy over the long term. But while our federal officials flounder in fear and partisan dysfunction, local leaders across the political spectrum are taking on the challenge, breaking dependence on conventional energy sources, and liberating their communities with efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
States like California and Maine have passed laws limiting the building of new coal plants, while cities like Los Angeles and Dallas have joined many others to pass moratoria and bans on fracking. No one knows how to safely store nuclear waste, which coupled with the staggering costs of building new reactors and fixing old ones, is also forcing a decline in nuclear power.
While some communities say no to polluting fossil energy, increasingly others are saying yes to renewable-energy solutions. After a 2007 tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas, this heartland city decided that the wind should protect rather than destroy them. The city’s sustainability plan includes among other renewable-energy projects, a local wind farm created through public-private partnership that generates enough power to export a surplus to neighboring communities. Mayor Bob Dixson believes Greensburg is building on the wisdom his ancestors who settled the plains and also got their energy from the sun, wind, the only difference being that today there is better technology.
In Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Rex Parris similarly seems to see no separation between renewable, energy efficiency and his conservative values. He has engaged the city to become net zero energy–meaning able to generate as much power as it uses annually with local renewables–by 2020. Parris says that local renewable development has become such an economic no-brainer, especially in a sun capital like Lancaster, that failing to support it is basically forcing constituents to pay a premium to buy electricity from a utility monopoly they don’t like.
In Silicon Valley, the city of Palo Alto’s municipal utility recently achieved a carbon-neutral power supply for its entire community and is on track to procure 100% renewable electricity by 2017. Numerous other American cities are aiming to or have already begun covering all their power demand with forms of renewable electricity purchases.
This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. and is, in fact, spreading across the globe. In Europe, Iceland gets nearly 100% of its electricity and about 85% of its primary energy from renewable sources. Denmark seeks 100% renewable energy by 2050, and Scotland aims for 100% renewable power by 2020. Many cities and regions across the continent have additionally reached, or gone beyond 100% renewable energy in at least one sector.
As fossil and nuclear resources inevitably wane, along with the jobs they create, and as their costs and devastating environmental impacts rise, this trend will grow.