Energy Environment Montana Politics

If Spokane can do it…


…why not Montana?

Spokane can hardly be considered a bastion of progressive politics yet in a 6-1 vote, its city council joined three other Washington communities in going to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The council then went on to override the regressive mayor’s veto of the ordinance, again by a vote of 6-1. The other Washington cities (and a county) to sign on are Edmonds, Bellingham and Whatcom County.

One of the folks who spearheaded the Spokane ordinance, Brian Henning, spoke in Missoula last week. He’s with 350 Spokane, and the event was sponsored by 350 Montana. Henning is a professor of philosophy and environmental studies at Gonzaga University.

Some notes:

The cost of renewable energy production is already falling fast while the costs of fossil fuel-based production is rising. Fast-growing wind generation already provides the lowest-cost electricity, and ever-cheaper solar will undercut even that within five years.

Climate change has impacts far beyond environmental concerns. It does not fit neatly under the “environment” column of a ledger book. Why? For one, the US military calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” Further, the American College of Physicians asserts “Climate change could have a devastating effect on human and environmental health,” and “We need to take action now to protect the health of our community’s most vulnerable members.”

On the economic front, the reinsurance industry has expressed grave concern that if the global average temperature rises more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it may no longer be able to insure the world.

The most recent wake-up call, the UN climate change report, predicts dire environmental consequences as early as 2040 if no immediate action is taken to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump made no mention of the report while in Florida as yet another hurricane barreled its way toward the U.S., this time landing at the Sunshine State’s panhandle. (There’s over another month-and-a-half before the “official” Atlantic hurricane season is over.) Here are some statistics:

With the formation of Leslie on September 23, the season is the first on record to see six subtropical storms (Alberto, Beryl, Debby, Ernesto, Joyce, and Leslie). On October 9, Michael became the second major hurricane of the season.

Hurricane Willa battered the west coast of Mexico and remnants, mixing with a new storm, are heading toward the Atlantic Seaboard as I write this.

We obviously can’t depend on the current administration to advance a clean energy platform. Unless there’s a huge swing in the makeup of Congress after the midterms, we certainly can’t rely on the U.S. House or Senate to do the right thing, either.

Therefore, it’s up to cities and states to demand renewable energy, pronto.

It’s a bit easier in Washington State because it has a forward thinking Public Service Commission (called the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission) and a sympathetic legislature that doesn’t stymie a clean energy agenda. Even Avista Corp., Spokane’s energy supplier, was a reasonable player in moving the Spokane ordinance. Get a clue Northwestern Energy.

Missoula is headed in the right direction, although there is no ordinance, yet. The Garden City looks to end all fossil fuel dependency by 2035, the Missoula Current reports. It’s not that big a stretch and sooner rather than later would be preferable.

Advancing a clean energy agenda is similar to organizing any movement, Professor Henning says, except that renewable energy shouldn’t be a left versus right issue. Self-reliance, smart economics and energy security aren’t partisan positions.

For the sake of generations yet to come, Montana must immediately move away from fossil fuels and toward a sustainable, clean energy future.









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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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