Thursday, June 17, 2010

If Not Now, When?

The News Journal has published a timely opinion piece on energy policy by my friend Jen Mihills:
Time for new energy policy is right now

If not now, when?


For years, Congress has debated the pros and cons of various climate change and energy policies without reaching agreement on any comprehensive legislation.

A new national energy strategy has been labeled too controversial, too uncertain, too costly and too far into the future to demand immediate action.

But after weeks of watching millions of gallons of oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico, citizens across the country are demanding to know: If not now, when? What will it take to convince our leaders that the time for action is now?

America's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels imperils our environment. The Senate must take action this year to reduce this dependence on dirty fuels.

The Gulf disaster, the worst oil spill in our nation's history, has cost the United States approximately $1.6 billion in economic damage thus far (Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies). It threatens our shores, the ocean ecology and sea life. Already, more than 54,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico have been closed to fishing, 22 percent of the total area.

In addition, at last count, 32 national wildlife refuges were at risk, as well as countless birds, sea turtles and dolphins. And there's still no end in sight to the surging oil.

Experts believe it is not a matter of if but when the oil will make its way into the Gulf Stream and up the Atlantic coastline. With the oil slick on the move, Delaware's unspoiled coastline and recreational fishing and tourism industries may be at risk.

In 2006, the state's tourism and recreational industry brought in more than $299 million dollars in revenue, sustaining more than 3,400 jobs.

Toxic chemicals found in oil, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), can endanger human and ecosystem health. These compounds significantly degrade air quality, contributing to global climate change. If left unaddressed, this will cause irrevocable damage to our planet.

Climate change can cause droughts, an increased incidence of severe storms and rising sea levels. The effects of a rise in sea level and saltwater intrusion would be devastating to Delaware and other coastal communities throughout the world.

Lawmakers have a unique opportunity to find a policy solution overwhelmingly supported by the public. They shouldn't take it for granted.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that our elected lawmakers demonstrate strong convictions on a national energy and climate policy. President Obama and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, have promised to lead a discussion on comprehensive climate change and energy legislation this month. We need to hold them to those promises.

Delaware's senators, Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman, have been strong supporters of climate and energy legislation. Sen. Carper has a powerful voice on the Environment and Public Works Committee. We encourage him to use that voice to demand that oil companies be held financially responsible for environmental damage.

For too long, we have heard the time is not right for a comprehensive energy and climate change legislation, but that time has long since passed.

Senators Carper and Kaufman, we ask that you continue to work for the protection and advancement of Delaware's natural resources and for cleaner, more efficient energy technology.

Jennifer Mihills is associate director for natural resources conservation for the Delaware Nature Society.

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