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Published on November 2nd, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


American Views On Climate Propel A New Energy Ethic

November 2nd, 2015 by  

By Sandy Reisky, CEO of Apex Clean Energy.

More than seven in 10 Americans now believe in climate change, up from just over half in 2010, according to a multi-year survey by the University of Michigan. This new perspective coincides with an ethical shift that is driving change in the way we produce and consume energy worldwide.

Horse Hollow Wind Farm TexasReligious leaders are calling for action, including Pope Francis who recently said a “cultural revolution” is needed to care for the planet and its people and for fossil fuels to be “progressively replaced.”

Last year, half a million protesters gathered in cities around the world for the People’s Climate March, the largest environmental rally in history. This global action brought together diverse groups sharing a common belief: “We must change how we produce and use energy to preserve our future.”

This is today’s “energy ethic,” an ideal enabled by affordable clean energy. And it is unstoppable. As Victor Hugo once said, “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”

The movement has extended to the capital markets, where steps to divest from fossil fuels are now common. Hundreds of financial, educational and religious institutions have signed up to exit investments in carbon-intensive industries.

Meanwhile, the energy ethic and consumer behavior are amplifying each other. People are responding to today’s new energy options by installing solar panels and buying electric cars; they are insulating their homes and consuming less. These are smart decisions: energy efficiency and solar panels deliver a return on investment, and electricity used for transportation is three times cheaper than gasoline. The trends are evident: in the United States, a new home or business goes solar every three minutes, and global electric car sales have doubled for each of the past three years.

The democratization of energy is profound. In the past, centralized decisions made sweeping changes to our energy system slow and difficult. But now, for the first time, the power to change energy generation and consumption is in the hands of ordinary citizens. Homeowners can put solar panels on their roof; communities can put them on public buildings. As a result, affordable clean energy is growing much faster than experts predicted.

Since 2008, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown tenfold. Combined, these technologies now supply five percent of the energy in the United States. Last year, half a trillion dollars were invested in new clean energy capacity worldwide. The rapid growth is not surprising; clean energy is now cost-competitive.

The company I head, Apex Clean Energy, is building nearly $2 billion in wind facilities this year, which has created over 1,000 new jobs. We’re working on new development projects nationwide. The fact is, wind and solar energy generation create more jobs per unit of power than fossil fuels, and the solar industry alone employs more people today than the coal industry.

The energy ethic draws on values deeply held by many Americans: independence, self-reliance, and a sense of responsibility to future generations. Collectively, we are changing our energy future by adding more clean energy to the grid, using less gasoline, and embracing efficiency. These changes strengthen our energy ethic. We become more empowered, we refuse to be demoralized by climate change, and we reach for solutions we can implement today–in our own lives–to address carbon pollution.

So in the campaign year ahead, question the presidential candidates on energy and climate change. Let them know that an “all of the above” energy policy is not consistent with our energy ethic. We need leaders who will put a price on carbon emissions and stop fossil fuel subsidies. Together, our collective pressure will drive change and determine outcomes.

How we think and talk about energy is important. We need to share our energy ethic and the success and viability of clean energy solutions. With new technologies, individuals have the ability and responsibility to create a better energy future and a livable environment.

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  • Robert Pollock

    I drive an electric car, I have some solar panels, and I’m always trying to make ‘less of a dent’ on the place I live in/at. I read a lot about different things, so I’m pretty normal. But I know much more about the current energy situation globally, as any American I’ve ever met. Most people around here are personally or family focused, they don’t see much else. The pressure on people to maintain life now is such that finding time for progressive processes is limited.
    If people were really aware of how the greediest capitalists are wrecking our environment, they’d do more about it.

  • Roger Lambert

    Another article telling us how wonderful it is that homeowners get to make their own

    and using such an enthusiastic lexicon!:

    New Energy Ethic
    new perspective
    driving change
    cultural revolution
    democratization of energy is profound …. etc etc etc

    I got news for you. This is not progress. This is NOT the best way forward. And it is definitely not the best way to, as the article gushes:

    ” [make] affordable clean energy….”

    Rooftop solar is the most expensive solar. It is only available to a few. It will be a small part of our future, and it is not a particularly democratic thing. What drives it, though, is a movement – cheered on by profiteers like the CEO author of this advertisement, sorry… ‘article’ – to privatize the electric utility sector – a sector that is, or at least was, the most socialistic, publicly-owned segment of our economy.

    This article is trying to make it seem like privatization is the next logical step in getting rid of fossil fuels. How great it is to make your own electricity! Well, it is not great… it is sad.

    Sad that we must settle for this instead of public ownership of more efficient energy farms. Sad that everyone fights for rooftop solar, but no one fights for total public ownership of our new electric utilities. Sad that the article talks about how wonderful energy efficiencies will be.

    Because the message we should be hearing, and making, is not about using less and less energy, but rather is that common public ownership of these new electric technologies would mean much less expensive electricity. That we could all be happily using MORE energy than we do right now but without harmful environmental degradation. And thereby raising our quality of life – the exact opposite of the argument made by climate deniers.

    We are bathed in a thousand times more free clean energy than we could possibly squander. Energy with zero fuel costs. Energy with essentially no global warming consequence. Energy that requires capital costs that with common ownership could be paid off in a few short years. Not for a privileged few, but for all of us. Energy that would then be so low cost as to be essentially free.

    And we could have that…. if we work together for it. But we will never have it if the propaganda of profiteers makes “I’m getting mine [rooftop PV]!” a virtue.

    • Tim

      You don’t make sense

    • Epicurus

      “Rooftop solar is the most expensive solar. ”

      Utility scale solar farms are cheaper per watt to build but require infrastructure to get the electricity to the end user. The transportation and distribution costs can be significant.

      If soft costs were cheaper in the U.S., rooftop would look a lot better. Community solar might be the best of both worlds.

  • I met a dude whose family business is selling religious trinkets to religious folks. Anything from virgin Mary statuary to books on living a more blessed christian life. They’re rich as hell. Using heavenly religiosity to sell stuff temporally is tried and true. Europe’s middle ages economy was based on building stone and glass cathedrals and having those cathedrals become pilgrimage destinations. Upon which the surrounding town merchants would sell goods and services.

    Summoning our “better angles” to take action is great. Using our collective need for understanding the complexity of life to hawk merchandise isn’t. The only candidate that puts climate change on the line is Bernie Sanders. He hasn’t once plead for folks to reach back into their soul to vote for him. Hillary walks a fine line between “all of the above” and taking action. It’s 50/50 guess what it is she’ll actually do. Obama took the we can have oil and gas (with a bit less coal) and have renewables. Unfortunately the EIA energy data says fossil fuel is still taking up the lion’s share of all the above. The other side of the aisle in the US doesn’t even talk about climate. They simply focus on being a victim to hard “gotcha” questions. I’m guessing about 7 in 10 people like to feel victimized and parlay that disposition into wealth.

    Sorry about they cynicism. I worked for Servicemaster as a kid. This is a janitorial company that integrates evangelical christianity into its business operations. We use to have to pray before doing night shift cleaning at one of its clients offices. That and growing up in the buckle of the midwestern bible belt didn’t help my cynicism of using religion for commercial purposes. Remember, churches aren’t taxed in the US. The entire business model of renewables and EV deployment is based on governmental grants and tax deduction. Religion ain’t paying for addressing climate change. This can easily be pointed out by those who like to point such things out. And take away tax free status from churches.

  • Keanwood

    Wow, 7 in 10 Americans believe in climate science. Im guessing that puts us in last place for the developed world. But I guess thats better than five years ago.

    Also 7/10 Americans but probably only 1/2 of American politicians. hahaha

    • Brent Jatko


    • Coley

      That’s being overly generous, thought our lot were a bunch of greedy nutters, but as usual ‘America leads’

    • Shiggity

      If someone paid me 6 figures I’d go around saying the sky was orange.

      You can call me a sellout, but you know you’d do the same.

      Money talks baby, money talks.

      All western wealth is pretty much tied up by ~25,000 families / individuals. Cater to them and you’ll have a job.

    • Epicurus

      Less than half of American politicians. Who on the Republican side believes in anthropogenic climate change? Two or three?

      • I’m finally getting 94 Dollars an hr,….It’s time to take some action and you can join it too.It is easy way to get rich.Three weeks from now you will wish you have started today….+++++++++++++>>> Vis!t my prof1le


        • Epicurus

          Moderator, PLEASE DELETE ABOVE.

  • JamesWimberley

    “Wind and solar energy generation create more jobs per unit of power than fossil fuels…” I’m a little worried by the weight put on this argument. It is true in the short run, as installation involves a lot of labour. But when a wind or solar farm is up and running, it involves hardly more maintenance jobs than a gas pipeline. The plant is long-lived, and in the steady state you only replace 3-4% of the stock each year. After the electricity system has been converted, in 20 years’ time perhaps, many of these installation jobs will disappear. That is not a disaster, but the qualification needs to be admitted.

    • randylsu

      The job creation stuff is mainly a political angle anyway. As many economists will remind you, “jobs are costs, not benefits”.

      • Jan Veselý

        Jobs are leverage, you pay the worker, he makes you money. if it is less, you are a moron not capitalist.

    • Coley

      Aye, but if the transition continues to gather speed ( in all areas) then a lot of jobs will be created in manufacturing and installation and given we will be replacing/modifying a huge existing infrastructure,then plenty of jobs for the foreseeable?
      Trick is,making sure those jobs are located where coal and heavy industries are taking the hit.

      • Shiggity

        It’s a simple calculation that divides total assets / total jobs.

        Fossil fuel empires have many more assets than renewable energy companies at the moment.

        The key is to spread wealth around. Renewable energy does that fantastically well.

        • Coley

          Aye, but as I have pointed out on here a few times most of the manufacturing jobs involved in creating the windfarms based in the UK are sourced outside the UK, bit galling to many redundant skilled workers left here on the dole, who are having to pay for the ‘renewable energy explosion’ out of their dole packets!

    • Epicurus

      Yes, but there are a lot of solar and wind farms yet to be built all of which will employ a lot more people than digging a big ditch from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. All construction jobs are temporary in nature.

  • sjc_1

    All the above is practical common sense, we may need to put more emphasis on certain areas.

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