Scientists offer optimism: data on California’s generation of renewable electricity points to a clean energy future for the state.
When the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) – the state’s non-profit overseer-operator of the Golden State’s bulk electric power system, transmission lines and electricity markets – posted data on its website April 9 showing that the state was running on 63 percent renewable electrical energy that day, the state’s climate experts gave the day its own name.
After all, explained RL Miller, co-founder of Climate Hawks Vote and chair of the California Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus, 63 percent wasn’t even the state’s high point for 2019. In an email to Climate Hawks members that day, she reported, “California has been running on as much as 80 percent renewable energy in recent weeks, thanks to solar energy.”
And that, she added, doesn’t include electricity generated by the state’s approximately 230,000 homeowners who have installed home solar energy generating systems on their rooftops.
Appearing two days earlier at a Green New Deal information session hosted by San Fernando Valley Indivisible, both Miller and her co-presenter, L.A. City Council District 12 candidate Dr. Loraine Lundquist, expressed optimism about America’s ability to halt what some fear is an unstoppable march toward an unlivable planet.
As Lundquist, a UC Berkeley-educated astrophysicist and sustainability professor at California State University, Northridge, put it, “Our climate emergency is my reason for running… As a scientist, I knew about climate change, I knew it was real, and I’d tried to reduce my carbon footprint. But when I became a mom, I immersed myself in the research, read the papers, and became terrified.”
“There’s still that piece of it in me,” Lundquist continued. “But I also have hope, because so many people are stepping up. It’s not too late. It’s technologically feasible – we have the technology now.”
And, both presenters declared, there’s the Green New Deal.
While, as Miller expressed it, “Trump is hellbent on making it worse…all for the sake of energy dominance,” environmental experts are now pushing Democrats to embrace the GND resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and in the Senate by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
“We can’t curl up in a ball,” Miller said. “We have to find the sweet spot called hope – between climate denial on the right and despair on the left. And the Green New Deal is that hope.”
The GND, Miller explained, “calls for decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2030 as much as possible and totally by 2050. Why those dates? Because that’s when science tells us we must.”
California’s example, both women said, reassures scientists that these de-carbonization deadlines can be met. The state already mandated the achievement of 100 percent clean renewable energy generation by 2045, and is looking at advancing that date, given its success so far.
While decarbonizing electricity generation has proven easy, Miller acknowledged that decarbonizing agriculture, manufacturing and transportation – the other big energy-consuming industries – presents a greater challenge. “But we put a man on the moon. We can do this!”
Converting public bus systems to electric; incentivizing consumer purchases of electric vehicles, weather stripping, solar panels and other clean-energy and energy-saving products; converting manufacturing processes from fossil-fuel to clean renewables; and instituting regenerative agriculture methods that restore the biological balance of soil and reduce toxic carbon emissions: all are part of the solution, Miller said.
Technology manufacturing behemoth Apple seems to agree.
In an April 11 statement, Apple announced that it has convinced 21 of its supply chain manufacturers – a majority of whom are in China – to obtain all their electricity from renewable sources. By 2020, the company and its suppliers will be using more than 5 gigawatts of renewable energy in their operations.
Apple already purchases enough renewable energy to cover all of its own operations and much of its suppliers’ needs, but since manufacturing (almost all of which Apple outsources) represents three-quarters of the company’s carbon footprint, there was still plenty of room for improvement.
If others in manufacturing, transportation and agriculture follow Apple’s lead, Lundquist declared, they’ll save both money and help save the planet. She cited a plan, developed by Stanford University environmental scientists for all 50 American states and 89 countries, that gives each government a road map for reducing the climate impact of electrical, transportation, heating and cooling and other systems. “It’s peer reviewed and published. It’s good science.”
“It’s not because we don’t have the money or the technology,” Lundquist said. “We don’t have the political will. We just have to decide that we’re going to do this!”
“We have mobilized against major threats before. In World War Two, we put everyone to work to conquer the political threat. The Green New Deal is the same thing – mobilizing to conquer the climate threat. It advocates to do what scientists tell us needs to be done.”
In Los Angeles, Lundquist said, a new Climate Emergency Mobilization Department is now being proposed. Its purpose will be to move the city to carbon-neutral electrical generation by 2025.
And Lundquist’s statements as a candidate in this spring’s L.A. City Council District 12 special election were among the factors that convinced Mayor Eric Garcetti to pull $2.2 billion in funding previously approved for rebuilding three coastal natural gas plants and shifting the funds toward pursuit of her “four zeros” goals: zero carbon electrical generation, zero carbon transportation, zero carbon waste, and zero-net energy buildings.
“We have to zero out our emissions to solve this problem,” she said. “And we have to do it fast – shockingly fast. We need to retrofit every building…put solar panels everywhere…make energy and water efficiency improvements… change the way we source water in L.A., do more water capture instead of shuttling water out to the ocean. We use a third of our energy moving water around the state. That has to change.”
And pushing for Green New Deal objectives, Lundquist concluded, will create jobs. “China and India are leading the green economy today. The best solar panels, the best electric vehicles are being manufactured in China. Is that what we want? By passing laws that build a new energy economy, L.A. and California can change that.”
“Some people say the Green New Deal is too ambitious,” Miller offered in closing. “They say we should nibble around the edges…but that’s not good enough. We need to go big!”
And as for those critics already labeling the GND as “socialist,” Miller reminded the audience, “When we did the New Deal, the GOP labeled it socialist. When we did Medicare, they called it socialist. So they’re calling the GND socialist. Whatever we do, they’ll call it socialist.”
So how, the audience inquired, should America respond?
Just do it.
Marcy Miroff Rothenberg writes most often on politics and women’s issues. Her new book – Ms. Nice Guy Lost – Here’s How Women Can Win– offers a comprehensive summary of the attacks waged on American women’s rights and opportunities by Trump and the GOP since 2016 – and a to-do list for fighting back. It’s available from store.bookbaby.comand at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Goodreads.com.