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Originally published: 2013-05-09 09:49:43
Last modified: 2013-05-09 09:49:42

Environmental costs not to be ignored

We are writing to express our appreciation to the N.C. House Public Utilities and Energy Committee for having the common sense to reject a bill that proposed ending the green energy mandate that was passed in a bipartisan measure in 2007. This mandate obliges our utility companies to produce part of the power they sell from renewable resources, such as solar and wind power.   

The argument put forward by those who promoted this misguided bill was that people needed to have "cheaper energy." What the bill's sponsors conveniently ignored is the vast subsidies that the American taxpayers provide annually to the fossil fuel industries.  
    Nor did the sponsors of the bill factor in the environmental costs of continuing to use fossil fuels as our primary source of energy, the harmful effects on every locality where these industries operate, not to mention the disastrous accidents that have already occurred and the huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other potent greenhouse gases, such as methane, a significant by-product of fracking, that all these destructive technologies inevitably cause.    

The bill was defeated in the committee because members from both political parties have learned that the 2007 mandate has become an engine of economic growth in our state. It has helped to establish a clean energy industry in our state which is now an important job creator. Between 2007 and 2012, while the state's economy lost 100,000 jobs, the young clean energy industry created the equivalent of 15,200 full-time jobs in an overall down economy, jobs that do not add to the pollution in our state and that provide important new skills for their workers. Rural economic advocates pointed out that these clean energy ventures have created jobs and expanded the tax base in struggling rural communities. Farmers have benefitted from the mandate as they have begun to produce energy from the methane produced by animals such as hogs. In the long term, the mandate will actually save rate payers millions of dollars, as it will make unnecessary the construction of costly new power plants. A study commissioned by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association and released in February this year reports that overall our state has already reaped $1.7 billion in total economic benefits over the last six years. Far more is possible for this young, nonpolluting, innovative industry.

Far from being a burdensome tax on consumers, as the bill's proponents suggested, this mandate has laid the foundation for truly green, renewable energy projects in North Carolina that will be of considerable benefit to all of us.

Richard and Mary GrayBoone