A different kind of roof art

Challenging Greene County to go green

~by Colleen O’Brien

Clean energy is the buzz phrase, especially since our government bowed out of the Paris Climate Accord that was signed by 195 countries.

Bad news came out this past Monday from “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin,” the UN weather agency’s annual report. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed last year, 10 to 20 times faster than it was thought to be adding up when the Paris Accord was being written in 2015 and since it went into effect in November of 2016.

The head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, said, “The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.”

Our head of the U.S. Energy Department, Rick Perry, has said publicly, at least twice, that CO2 emissions from human activity are not contributing to any kind of climate change.
Besides being at odds with the U.N. and its climate investigators, Perry is at odds with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency) and a sister agency of the Energy Dept, the EPA. He is, of course, not at odds with his President.

Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said, “This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”

The good news is that municipalities across the U.S. are rallying to sound judgement. Honolulu, Indianapolis, San Jose, San Diego and Albuquerque are the top cities to have installed the most photovoltaic cells that store solar power. There are 60 more cities coming up fast.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially in big cities, have invested in solar panels on their roofs or solar projects on government buildings in their communities, according to Environment America, the organization that releases reports on wind energy policy, the presence of mercury in contaminated fish, companies’ compliance to the Clean Water Act, energy efficient buildings, extreme weather in the U.S., precipitation rates, fuel efficient cars and levels of carcinogens in waterways.

We have roofs – whether we own them or rent them – and solar panel prices are coming down by the year because of the burgeoning demand. In fact, in California alone, the fact checker PolitiFact agreed with a statement by California state Senate leader Kevin de León, who said that there are 500,000 jobs in solar energy in California alone right now, about 10 times the number of jobs in coal across the country. PolitiFact said it found De León’s statement accurate with clarification (asking if the high jobs number includes workers who are assigned “green” duties that are only part of their work time).

We could all derive our own energy needs via the roof above our heads. It seems only sensible to use what is free every day – sun and wind – to install our own energy sources. As the energy companies invest in more and more wind and solar farms, they will continue to squeeze the last drops of coal, oil and gas out of the earth. When those commodities run out, they will start charging us for what is already ours.

I salute the farmers of Greene County who years ago invested in wind turbines and whose energy is now sold to Alliant. Maybe the roof art of downtown Jefferson will be solar panels, and the alleyways will be lined with windmills.

Instead of being the first county in Iowa to have a sports complex, brew pub and beer garden, why don’t we invest in and help our citizens invest in something that will bring down costs for all of us instead of just raising taxes for nonsense?

If Greene County is looking for recognition and brilliant investment, we could get both by being the first among the plethora of small population areas in this country by living up to our name and going green all the way around.

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