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Author Topic: The Big Picture of Renewable Energy Growth  (Read 23600 times)

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Re: The Big Picture of Renewable Energy Growth
« Reply #210 on: September 27, 2016, 03:03:47 pm »

Courts should get out of the way of energy revolution, learn from the ‘90s telecom revolution

By Reed Hundt

When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals convenes oral arguments on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) this week, the court will act as the gatekeeper to what could be a powerful, wealth-creating transformation of the American economy away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.

With the nation’s energy landscape already rapidly changing, the 5-4 Supreme Court stay of the Obama Administration’s cornerstone environmental rule flew in the face of the investors, innovators and city leaders who are driving the energy revolution. As a nation, we (and the courts) should draw upon the experience of the communications revolution of the 1990s, and the way smart regulation laid the foundation for today’s explosion in phone, Web and media.

By limiting pollution from power plants, the plan would slow our headlong rush to change our climate and in so doing would catalyze America’s growing renewable energy markets. 

The five Justices    who supported the Supreme Court’s unprecedented stay of the rule must have assumed that the Environmental Protection Agency regulation via the longstanding Clean Air Act would cause irreparable injury to some businesses—presumably utilities bent on burning coal to generate electricity and the firms that provide them coal.

What those Justices failed to consider is that the energy transition is taking place now, from the Iowa plains to the California desert to the mountain ridges of Maine, benefiting many more.

The parallels to the Telecom Act of 1996 are clarifying. As the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the act’s implementation, I wish I could impart the fundamental lesson of that law to the Court: Regulation that pushes America into the beckoning brighter future is good for business, consumers, and the world.

The 84 separate regulatory actions the FCC took to implement the ‘96 Act and the numerous separate parts of the CPP are fundamentally based on the crucial, central point that regulation to catalyze new markets can produce major economic gains, and lead to the replacement of old methods of doing business with innovative life-enhancing techniques.

Many firms, in fact, did not survive the metamorphosis of communications from analog to digital, from wire line to wireless, from circuit-switched to packet-switched, from voice to Internet. But many other firms—far more wealth-creating businesses—were born, transformed, and given a chance to flourish because of the regulatory changes of the ‘96 Act.

More than $2 trillion in new wealth was created in the 1990s for American households. The federal budgets soared from big deficits to astounding surpluses. Unemployment fell and wages increased for all income levels, for the only years between the 1960s and today. If the firms afraid of these regulatory changes had succeeded in obtaining judicial proscriptions against innovation, the country and the world would be far worse off.

It is not just a tragedy, it is a blunder that the Supreme Court in staying the CPP did not understand the importance of regulating in favor of new markets, new opportunities, change itself.

The court ignored the thousands of cities and the millions of Americans who are demanding the clean, cheap, reliable energy that wind and solar technologies now provide. The court ignored the jobs that would be created if the budding renewable energy market were allowed to blossom. The court ignored the freedom that consumers should have to choose their energy sources in a competitive market now that technology can break up utility monopolies, and they ignored the right that all Americans have to clean air.

I hear these voices every day in coalitions across the country, through my work in more than a dozen states helping investors fuel the clean energy revolution via the nonprofit Coalition for Green Capital.

This revolution of innovation is an imperative driven by climate change, a threat we do not have the luxury of waiting to solve. The Pentagon has recognized climate change as a threat multiplier, instructing commanders to prioritize resilience to climate change in their operations. Health experts warn that climate change could undo the past 50 years of public health gains—spreading famine, disease, and extreme weather in unpredictable ways. Cities are investing in major infrastructure projects to protect against rising seas and extreme storms. Fire departments are preparing for record-long and increasingly deadly forest fire seasons. Farmers are updating irrigation systems to prepare for a dwindling water supply.

Americans are doing their best to avert and adapt to climate change. They recognize the need to overcome the entrenched fossil fuel interests and infrastructure of the status quo.

The wireless revolution of the last two decades and the budding renewable energy revolution aren’t that disparate. Outdated fossil fuel infrastructure and interests are keeping us entrenched in the 19th century technology of coal-fired power. If we take the path of least resistance and do nothing, we’ll continue to pollute our planet and warm the globe to devastating effect.

But if government sets the stage so that renewable energy is allowed to flourish in every state, we’d spur major economic growth and development.
It’s time we let a 21st century clean, efficient energy system unfold – and, just like the wonders of today’s communications technology, we can look back on the marvels it produces for all of us. 

Reed Hundt is the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, and was the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 1993 to 1997.


Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Ps. 97:11


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