Many people recognize that climate change is happening, and that it’s our fault, but not everyone agrees which direction we need to go.
Here, in the United States, President Obama is fighting to maintain a delicate balance between clean energy, addressing climate change, and energy independence, addressing national sovereignty. In his annual State of the Union speech, Obama praised efforts in the direction of energy independence, noting that, for the first time in two decades, the United States is producing more oil than it imports.
Additionally, the boom in natural gas production has shifted energy needs away from oil, further reducing our need for imports. This may seem like a great step forward for energy independence, but the hazards of natural gas extraction, it seems to me, aren’t doing much in the fight against climate change. True, natural gas burns cleaner than oil and its derivatives, but natural gas leaks, flaring, and explosions are generating far more greenhouse gas emissions than they’re saving.
President Obama praised the solar- and wind-power industries, noting their impressive growth over the last few years, as well as announced his intention to end fossil-fuel subsidies, which could further reduce their attractiveness and profitability. How can Obama push in both directions at the same time? Increasing use of natural gas will only lead to extraction of more natural gas, along with its associated problems. On the other hand, increasing the use of renewable energy, couldn’t that solve both problems at the same time?
I would propose to the President a different solution, one that addresses a number of problems, including climate change, energy independence, and the job market, among others. First, drop fossil fuel subsidies, including those on natural gas, as planned. Second, foment an increase in fuel economy on medium- and heavy-duty trucks, as planned. Third, eliminate conventional vehicles, replacing them with electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Finally, put more into renewable energy, including solar power plants, wind farms, geothermal power plants, even landfill gas power plants. Doing this will create jobs, assure energy independence, eliminate fossil fuel emissions, and could be a start to addressing climate change in a meaningful way.