The $787 billion economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama includes $45 billion for energy conservation and for developing new, less-polluting energy technologies — funding that far exceeds any previous single appropriation for these purposes.
While this action will help reduce carbon emissions and start the United States on a more pro-active path to combat global warming, there are some risks associated with the transition to renewable sources of energy.
I consulted with The Nature Conservancy’s energy expert, Jimmie Powell, on the transition and just posted two points on the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog that I’d like to share here:
1) While renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and biomass are an essential element in a national strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are not without their own environmental impacts.
Some renewable sources require large amounts of land area. If large scale wind farms are sited in the wrong places, they can affect habitat for birds and other wildlife. Similarly, solar thermal facilities can dramatically alter threatened desert habitats. Biomass fueled generating plants that depend upon wood should be in balance with sustainable wood supplies.
These concerns do not reflect opposition to renewable sources, just a recognition that, they, too, should be subject to sound environmental review.
The Nature Conservancy is working with renewable energy developers and other conservation groups to create guidelines for alternative energy development.
2) Energy efficiency requires no new land for generation facilities and there are many technologies available today that would also save consumers money on their utility bills.
Efficiency could reduce the need for new generation facilities by forty percent protecting land and consumer pocketbooks.
The just-approved economic stimulus legislation makes important investments in energy efficiency. Congress should make energy efficiency the top priority in our electricity system and address the market failures that keep additional efficiency investments from being made. Efficiency should be counted first toward any electricity standard that Congress imposes.
(Photo: Kathy Mackey, from a creative commons license.)
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