Representatives from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Southern Alliance is among those organizations urging President Obama to fight for an ambitious international treaty on climate change and investment in what activists are calling a clean energy economy.
The President was originally scheduled to attend the conference this week, but will instead go to Denmark on December 18. The event ends the following day.
Jennifer Rennicksis an environmental activist with Southern Alliance. She says South Carolina has much to gain from a clean energy economy, including job creation and major industrial investment. Rennicks says because of a federal grant received by Clemson University, South Carolina is set to become a center of wind energy research and development.
“We would get cleaner forms of energy that would create jobs and lower consumer bills, and also mitigate some of the changes to climate change that we know are coming,” said Rennicks. “I think South Carolina should be engaged in the dialogue, and it has been since Senator Lindsey Graham has been stepping up and leading on this.”
Graham says that South Carolina is positioned to be one of the states to benefit the most from clean energy legislation.
But Senator Graham is also in environmental news today in another way. He’s weighing in on the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) will declare carbon dioxide a health hazard. The EPA is acting pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in a Massachusetts case where the Court ruled carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Graham says he believes that regulation of carbon by the EPA is the worst possible outcome in the case. He says jobs will be lost and in some cases industries will be regulated out of business. Graham says regardless of whether climate change is viewed as a real threat or some grand hoax, carbon is eventually going to be regulated. Graham says as a conservative he believes the proper way to set the rules is through Congress.
South Carolina has increased its carbon dioxide emission, the main contributor to global warming, by 45 percent since 1990, according to a Post and Courier analysis. Rennicks says that increase has been fueled largely by gases from coal-fired power plants. Rennicks says South Carolina is one of the most energy-inefficient states, deriving approximately 40 percent of its energy from coal-fired generators, and she says it can improve its energy efficiency considerably by simple measures like changing to efficient light bulbs and better windows.
Rennicks says South Carolina is positioned to become a world leader in wind energy, not just in its production of wind turbines, but in its use of wind power, especially from off-shore turbines.
“There is a tremendous potential for wind energy off the coast of the Carolinas,” said Rennicks. “With a long, gradual continental shelf you would be able to place turbines at varying distances.”
Rennicks says the Palmetto State is already known for its presence in the growth of wind energy, since manufacturers in the state produce multiple wind turbine parts. She says she will probably see wind turbines in Denmark produced in South Carolina, but she would rather she them on the Carolina coast.
The South Alliance is working with 1Sky, a collaborative national campaign pushing for strong federal action to tackle global climate change. Specifically 1Sky is calling on the Obama administration to push for stronger action on short-term targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts, than the 17 percent currently offered by the United States. Activists want to use the Copenhagen trip to pressure the U.S. Senate to pass a strong bill in the Senate this spring.