Todd Meyers’ December 11 column on environmental policy distracts readers from what really drives global warming. Suggesting smart thermostats will save our climate is like saying you’ve adopted a healthy lifestyle by purchasing a smart scale.
Smart thermostats can help consumers save perhaps 10% on their heating bill, but miss out on replacing all of their natural gas use with an electric heat pump, water heater and induction range, or replacing their gas guzzling vehicle with an electric model. Transportation emits 28% of greenhouse gas emissions nationally. Heating buildings emits 12%.
But, even if a majority of consumers make such choices, emissions reductions would still be limited by emissions from utilities and industry (27% and 22% of U.S. emissions, respectively). A national price on carbon is needed to create market incentives that drive decarbonization of power, steel, concrete and fertilizer production. The revenue from a price on carbon can be returned to the people in equal carbon dividends, empowering them to choose low-carbon climate solutions.
Our nation’s climate policy is a mess because Congress hasn’t yet passed carbon pricing legislation. That doesn’t mean we should give up and distract ourselves with smart thermostats. Even Todd Meyers once supported carbon pricing.
A recent press release from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has documented how the fossil fuel industry continues to make massive investments in fossil fuels, all the while “greenwashing” to obscure their true intent of maximizing profits.
Big Oil and their lobbyists publicly extol their commitment to and plans for reducing carbon emissions (greenwashing) while, behind the scenes in boardrooms, the talk is mainly about developing strategies to maximize future fossil fuel profits. This disinformation campaign is pursued regardless of any consequences to the climate.
This industry needs to be called to account for its actions and intentions in the face of the growing climate crisis that will affect all our futures, a crisis they privately acknowledge they are causing.
One step toward accountability would be implementation of a national carbon fee and dividend plan, such as that found in Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307).
They have held us hostage to their scheming for too long.
While science has played a leading role in the identification of climate change as a major issue confronting the future of humanity, its effectiveness in communicating the urgency of the issue has been disappointing. We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, but our decisions are usually driven by emotions. Reason only provides a rationalization1.
The arts tap into our emotions, and can be powerful in communicating the urgency of limiting climate change. The Tri-Cities Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is therefore expanding its outreach into the arts.
Two events serve to focus our effort. One is an art show this summer that will communicate a vision for a better world that embraces climate change solutions. Drewboy Creative will provide the venue, and contributions in all art media will be drawn from the local arts community. Look for more on this in the January issue of Tumbleweird.
The other event was a jazz concert on December 3. Seattle composer Nelda Swiggett contacted us last summer about hosting a concert she wrote called the Alaska Suite performed by her jazz quintet, as part of a tour of Yakima and Ellensburg as well as the Tri-Cities. As Nelda describes it, “Alaska Suite is not just a concert. The performance engages the power of artistic expression — live music, spoken words, images and poetry — to connect audiences deeply and emotionally to the scientific realities of climate change. It has been performed 27 times to date, touching over 1600 people with its message of hope and call to action.”
Hosting the event turned out to be challenging for us, mostly because the date coincided with the date of the Alternative Gift Fair, which had invited the Tri-Cities Chapter of CCL to be one of the small number of organizations selected for donations at the AGF. To help potential donors decide whether to contribute to Citizens Climate Education, we had to table at AGF for four hours, and give a presentation. So, we had to be involved with both events, thankfully not at the same time.
Nelda’s jazz quintet requested $1000 to support their performance, so we knew we had to raise funds for the Alaska Suite. The organizers for the Yakima event had decided to seek sponsors to cover the costs of the musicians, and to identify a worthy project to dedicate ticket sales to. We adopted that model, so we quickly sought an appropriate project. A conversation with David Beach of Bike Tri-Cities suggested the Wheelhouse Community Bike Shop as a potential partner. So, Steve met with Maggie Vincent, the President of the Wheelhouse Board, and quickly settled on its Earn-A-Bike program, which trains CBC students to use Wheelhouse tools to refurbish, repair, maintain and safely ride bicycles, obtains used bicycles from local bike shops, and gives students who refurbish two bicycles a free bike, helmet, lock, pump and lights. Since transportation is the largest carbon emissions source in Washington state, empowering people to maintain and ride bicycles is a great way to reduce carbon emissions. So, the Wheelhouse Earn-A-Bike program is a perfect fit for the fundraising event.
Once we had a project identified, we could go to potential sponsors with a compelling vision for the event. Raising the funds to cover the musician costs was easy. A large fraction of potential sponsors we contacted offered generous contributions. So, thank you Cornerstone Wealth Strategies, Andy Miller and Adele Connors, Barbara and Ray Puigh, Attorneys Reinig, Barber and Henry, Jennifer Rodriquez and Brian Lawenda, Sustainable Tri-Cities (STC), and one anonymous donor for realizing the value of this event.
In addition, Shalom United Church of Christ offered its sanctuary and kitchen as the venue for the event and covered the cost of event insurance, the Tri-Cities Chapter of CCL covered the Eventbrite ticket fees, and Tumbleweird published a large free advertisement in its November issue.
We employed a variety of media for publicity. In addition to the Tumbleweird notice, we posted the event on Facebook, Tri-Cities Events, Visit Tri-Cities, and the Community Arts Council calendars, highlighted it in the CCL monthly newsletter and in the Shalom newsletter, and posted flyers in a dozen businesses in Richland. Annette Cary wrote an excellent article that was published in the Tri-City Herald five days before the event. Eventbrite also recommended it to its subscribers. Polling at the event identified personal contacts as the most effective publicity method; all other publicity methods except community events calendars also helped bring people to the event.
The event consisted of a mix of visual images, evocative words, and stirring jazz. After the performance, the audience was asked to write down what they have personally done about climate change, and what more they will do. Some of the actions were read for all to hear. In addition, representatives of CCL, STC, and Wheelhouse were available at tables with information about their organizations.
The event itself was by all accounts a smashing success. 160 people bought tickets, and $2400 was raised for Wheelhouse, enough for 16 bike sets. 140 people attended. “People who came had truly enjoyed being there, and felt that something unique and exciting had just happened in the Tri-Cities.” “An outstanding event. Incredibly moving”.
Courtney Flatt interviewed Nelda, Lora, and others after the event. Her report on Northwest Public Broadcasting is available here.
I agree with Craig Brown’s Sept. 28 conclusion that the Inflation Reduction Act alone will do little to limit global warming and is a very expensive way to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases.
A far more effective and economical way is to put an increasing national price on fossil carbon so that market forces will drive down U.S. emissions, return all of the net revenue to the people in equal carbon dividends to minimize the financial impact on families and the economy, and to apply a carbon border adjustment to imports from countries without a price carbon to induce them to also price carbon and to level the playing field for domestic manufacturers.
If Craig Brown is concerned about the impacts of global warming on our mountain snowpack, forest fires, air quality and summertime irrigation supply, he’ll embrace the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (energyinnovationact.org) and urge our next representative, Dan Newhouse, to co-sponsor that legislation. Steven Ghan, Richland
Tabling at public events can be an excellent way to reach the public with the good news that climate change solutions are available and ready to be used.
Riverfest is an annual event celebrating the rivers of the Tri-Cities in Washington State. The motivation behind it is to promote the hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River, so the event is sponsored by the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, electrical utilities, irrigators, the agriculture industry, and ports. A total of 90 organizations tabled and thousands attended the October 8 event at the Neil Lampson Pits in Columbia Park.
This is the first year that Citizens Climate Lobby tabled at the event, so our position on the Snake River Dams (we neither support nor oppose dam removal, as the issue is complex with many tradeoffs) was questioned before our application was accepted.
Our message was that climate change is reducing our mountain snowpack (70% loss by 2100) and therefore threatens our rivers (which get 70% of their water from snowmelt), so to save our rivers for future generations we should save our climate.
It was a lovely October day, so everyone was in a good mood.
Craig Mills, Gail Taff, Mariana Neeway, Carl Baker, Bruce Rathbone and Steve Ghan tabled for five hours and spoke to perhaps 200 people. Lora Rathbone tabled next to us for Sustainable Tri-Cities. We had handouts on the carbon fee and dividend policy, the Inflation Reduction Act, and What you can do about climate change (in Spanish and English). We also had a computer available to use the En-Roads climate simulator to explore the effectiveness of climate change solutions.
The attendees were more diverse than in our previous tabling events, from a high school science teacher eager to collaborate on teaching climate change solutions, to a hardcore climate change denier fully immersed in the Heartland Institute dogma. We all got some good practice fielding challenges about climate science and solutions. We found that getting out in front and inviting passers-by to learn greatly increased the likelihood of engagement. Bruce and Carl had several extended conversations about electric vehicles.
Many of the attendees were kids, who snapped up the Love the Earth booklets that Mary Thompson had made for us. Dozens of adults took handouts on carbon fee and dividend and on what you can do. Seven registered with Citizens Climate Lobby.
Much of the attendance seemed to be driven by a “passport” on which they collected signatures from each station, so we quickly learned to require them to listen to our elevator talk about carbon fee and dividend.
Our Congressional Representative Dan Newhouse passed by, but declined to come to our table.
Lora Rathbone summarized the event well: “I think it was about as good an event as I’ve tabled at. The weather was perfect and the people who stopped by were not antagonistic, although largely conservative. I also spoke to a very diverse group, reaching far more “not already engaged” people. I especially enjoyed the kids.”
Both Washington and California have set aggressive goals to ban the sale of new gas powered vehicles over the next 10 to 15 years. It’s part of recent legislation to address carbon emissions to combat climate change. But are electric vehicles affordable to charge? And is the power grid able to handle the demand?
Right now there are more than 50,000 EVs registered in Washington state. That’s roughly 1 for every 151 residents according to the website Inside EV.
“As far as the grid impacts are concerned, we don’t really see in the near term any, any challenges to accommodate the additional load that electric vehicles with demand.”
The Pacific Northwest is in a better position than other areas to accommodate more EV’s since most of the electricity generated in the area comes from hydroelectric operators – that’s according to Find Energy, a website that uses government data to show energy costs – both the financial and environmental.
This last June we drove 3,900 miles round trip from West Richland to Wichita, Kan., for a family reunion. The cost to “fuel” our car for the trip was $7.60. By comparison, a 2022 Subaru Outback (EPA rated at 25 mpg city to 33 mpg highway) would have cost a minimum of $620 at $5.25/gal to make the same trip. As you might guess, we drove a battery electric vehicle.
The 2016 Tesla model S that we drove charges more slowly and travels fewer miles on a charge than newer cars that Tesla and other manufacturers sell. On a typical travel day, we would start the day with the car fully charged and drive about a hundred miles before stopping to charge the car and take a break for about half an hour. After this break, we would drive another hundred miles to our next charging stop and lunch break. In the afternoon we would travel another hundred miles before our afternoon break, and then another hundred before stopping for dinner and spending the night.
On a typical day, we would travel a little over 400 miles, arriving at our destination relatively relaxed and unstressed. It took us four easy traveling days to get to Wichita. If we had driven a gas car and pushed ourselves really hard, we might have been able to get there in three traveling days, but the trip would have been much more fatiguing. We would have missed out on seeing the Snake River gorge at Twin Falls (they have a nice museum and visitor center). And the Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska. We passed on opportunities along the way to visit the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute or the Wildhorse Casino; maybe next time.
The Tesla model S built-in navigation system guided us from charging station to charging station on the way to our destination. Many of Tesla’s pre-2017 cars (such as ours) have free unlimited lifetime supercharging, so we paid nothing to charge at our fast-charging stops during the day. Owners of newer cars would have to pay between $7.80 and $15.60 to add 300 miles of charge to their cars. Even with the added cost, driving electric will beat the cost of driving a car burning gasoline at — who knows what price per gallon?
When we stopped for the night, we chose hotels that offered overnight charging. At most hotels that offer this amenity, there is no charge. One hotel we stayed at was equipped with a charging station that we had to pay for. Paying for the charging station is much like paying at the gas pump. Swipe your credit card or scan the QR code with your smartphone and it charges your credit card. Our cost at this stop was $7.60 to bring our car from about one-third charged to fully charged, adding about 140 miles of charge to our battery. This was our total cost for “fuel” for the trip.
Of course we made several short trips to visit relatives in the area. During these visits we were able to plug the car into the normal electrical outlet outside their home or garage. This charges the car quite slowly, but an overnight visit would add enough miles to get to our next destination.
Our car is rated to travel about 220 miles on a charge. Since it’s an older car, it typically doesn’t travel quite that far. Most newer cars are rated for significantly more range than this. Volkswagen’s ID.4 is rated for 275 miles on a charge. Tesla’s lowest-range car is the model 3 rear-wheel drive at 272 miles. A new Tesla model S has a range of 400 miles. Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and Bolt EUV are rated for about 250 miles of range. Ford’s Mustang Mach-E is available with up to a 303mile range rating.
Having made the trip this way, we would definitely choose to make it the same way again; maybe in one of Tesla’s new Cybertrucks.
Those hoping to preserve a livable world for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren can find much to celebrate in the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act recently passed in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bill, which President Biden has since signed into law, contains a huge investment in low-carbon technologies and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The significance of this legislative victory cannot be overstated. For decades, scientists warned of the dire consequences we face for failing to bring down the heat-trapping emissions that are warming our world. For far too long those warnings were ignored, and hopes that our nation would take action were raised again and again only to be dashed for lack of political will.
Now, at last, the political will is there. Congress has finally listened and delivered. With these policies in place, the United States will embark on a transformational journey to wean ourselves off the fossil fuels driving climate change, and in the process remove air pollution that sickens millions of Americans and inflicts billions of dollars in damage to our economy.
The Inflation Reduction Act will speed this transition by providing tax credits over the next 10 years to develop and deploy carbon-free energy like nuclear, wind and solar. Money will also be used to help households become more energy efficient and to replace gas appliances with ones powered by electricity, like heat pumps and induction stoves. Middle- and low-income Americans will also be eligible for tax credits to help them buy electric vehicles, thereby reducing the carbon emissions and unhealthy air pollution from gasoline-powered cars and trucks.
The incentives in this legislation will provide economic opportunity here in eastern Washington by increasing the demand for electricity this region can provide, and by allocating $20 billion for agricultural conservation programs to build carbon in soils and to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, $5 billion for forest conservation and management, and more than $10 billion for producing rural renewable energy.
Another important provision in the Inflation Reduction Act addresses the leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide and a big contributor to global warming. To reduce methane emissions from oil and gas wells, this legislation imposes a fee that rises over time. The principle is simple: Discourage bad behavior by making it more expensive. It worked really well to reduce the number of people who smoke cigarettes.
Disadvantaged communities that typically bear the greatest burden from climate change and pollution will also get help. Some $60 billion will be used on environmental justice programs in those communities.
This long-sought breakthrough on climate legislation was made possible by grassroots support that was lacking in previous “inside the Beltway” efforts. Over the past year, for example, Citizens’ Climate Lobby generated more than 200,000 letters and phone calls to members of Congress urging passage of a reconciliation bill that contains strong climate provisions. Members of other advocacy groups urged Congress to tackle climate as well. This victory was won by concerned citizens who made their voices heard by decision makers in Washington D.C.
Meaningful steps to fight climate change come not a moment too soon. Extreme weather-related disasters made worse by rising temperatures, like flooding this summer that killed dozens in Missouri and Kentucky, are becoming more frequent and could soon outpace our ability to adapt and recover. In Washington, the impact of an altered climate is being felt with more extensive forest fires and diminished summertime irrigation water from mountain snowmelt.
Throughout the global community, the U.S. has been viewed as a laggard on climate change. This legislation will help restore U.S. climate leadership. Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in every country around the world, and our example will inspire and motivate other nations to increase their climate ambition.
We’re grateful that Washington state Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray responded to the call for climate action by voting in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act.
More will be needed to meet the U.S. pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030, but for now let’s celebrate the passage of this historic legislation, which brings hope that we and future generations can live in a hospitable climate. The best time to do something about climate change was 20 years ago. The next best time is now, and that’s finally happening.
Madeleine Para is Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Steve Ghan is the leader of the Tri-Cities Chapter.
As reported on April 26, the Washington State Building Code Council recently revised codes to require new commercial buildings to mostly use heat pumps rather than natural gas to warm air and water. It will likely apply similar revisions to the code for new homes, and might also restrict use of gas in stoves and fireplaces as well.
Some people, like AJ Fouts in his April 28 letter, will object to this loss of choice, which is driven by the Climate Commitment Act passed by the Washington State Legislature.
But consider the benefits! First, with our cheap electricity, heating with heat pumps costs less than heating with natural gas. Heat pumps cost about the same as gas furnaces to install, but can cool as well as warm a building. Induction stoves can heat as fast as natural gas.
Second, gas furnaces, stoves and fireplaces emit PM2.5 particles, NO2 and carbon monoxide, toxins that significantly increase the risk of asthma.
Third, leaks and releases during the extraction and distribution of natural gas are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. That is the primary reason the Climate Commitment Act is limiting future use of natural gas.