Led by conservative and liberal governments alike, European countries have come out with some big renewable energy targets lately. Why can't the US do the same?
Northern Ireland announced last week that it plans to get 40% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. I know, not the biggest country, but that doesn't make the effort any less important, relatively speaking. Northern Ireland is only at 10% right now and will have to put in a lot of money to reach its target. But the country sees that doing so is a benefit in the long-term.
“I fully accept the many challenges we face in balancing competing environmental and cost issues, in order to create a sustainable energy infrastructure that will support economic growth and provide for reliable and competitive energy markets for Northern Ireland,” energy minister Arlene Foster said.
Scotland, in the same week, announced that it is aiming to get "at least" 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. Wow -- no small target there.
Germany, a slightly larger country, also just announced that it plans to hit at least 60% renewable energy by 2050 -- not quite as ambitious but not bad. Of course, Germany has been working on this in earnest for years, and it already gets 16% of its energy from renewable sources -- more than the US' potential 2021 Renewable Energy Standard of 15% that many environmentalists are hoping for.
What's the Matter with the US?
So, what's the deal, what's wrong with the US that we can't aim higher than 15% (if we can even agree to do that)?
Well, aside from the fact that many in Congress don't seem to get that clean energy is where the jobs of the future will be (or they get it but care more about the dirty energy money they receive today), the sad truth is that one leading driver of the clean energy revolution is global climate change and many US political leaders are unwilling or unable to understand this issue, let alone talk about it constructively and act to address it.
The Chinese (who are also steaming ahead in the "clean energy race") have learned the ABCs of climate change. So, they are now getting to work addressing it. “There is really no debate about climate change in China,” says chairwoman of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, Peggy Liu. "China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientists, so they don’t waste time questioning scientific data."
In the UK, conservative leaders talking about climate change say things you'd be lucky to hear a liberal say in the US. For example, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a speech last week:
- “Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge;”
- “An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity.... The clock is ticking. The time to act is now;” and
- “You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others.”
On the other hand, over in the US, there are conservatives still wanting to investigate the over-investigated, false-scandal inappropriately named Climategate.
What's the matter with the US?
Photo Credit: Wilfred Knievel via flickr/CC license