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Urgency

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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The U.S., and much of the West, failed to mitigate COVID-19 effectively during the pandemic’s first year. There are plenty of reasons for the United States’ failure, and plenty of people to blame, however “lack of urgency” sums up a lot of it. When President Trump could have used his executive powers to fill the mask shortage, he did not. The CDC, meanwhile, seemed to be operating business as usual, as if we weren’t in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years. The agency followed bureaucratic procedure, waiting way too long to make common sense health recommendations. They insisted on being the only ones to create a covid test, which ended up failing, while other good ones already existed. 

America is on a similar path with regards to climate change. As many informed people understood in Feburary 2020 of the virus potential for destruction, we now have an idea of what unmitigated global warming could look like. Among countless other reports, the recent IPCC study paints a grim picture. Here is how Debra Roberts, IPCC co-chair, explained the findings to the BBC:

"Our report clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we've all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear. So this is really a key moment. Our report points out very clearly, this is the decade of action, if we are going to turn things around."

Public discourse and a lot of new policy, at both the state and federal level, appropriately reflects the severity of this crisis. However, there seems to be one exception: Transmission. 

New and better powerlines are a prerequisite to the kind of clean energy transition many commentators deem necessary to mitigate climate change. Yet our transmission development remains relatively stagnant, especially the ultrahigh-voltage variety. “Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero,” a Atlantic article pointed out last year. 

Cumbersome regulations and NIMBYSM are mostly to blame. A 2018 report by the nonprofit Americans for a Clean Energy Grid identified 22 shovel-ready projects that had been in existence for a decade or more. To get such projects off the ground, the report’s authors suggested streamlining project siting and permitting, passing a tax credit for transmission projects, and direct investment by the federal government. 

Yet there is little evidence that we are moving to address the problems that are behind transmission’s stagnation. The Department of Energy has moved towards some regulation reform, but slowly. And, in the name of equity, they’ve made noise about communities playing a larger role in transmission decisions. That seems like a recipe for just more NIBYSM. 

What is the solution to our current predicament? Our government must do what it didn’t during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. They must act like we are at war against climate change. Afterall, we are. 


 

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