The real “finally” on climate change


I started working on energy and climate change issues in 2006 when I was executive director of the Alaska Conservation Alliance and Alaska Conservation Voters. In 2008, I was the only Alaskan invited to attend Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s World Climate Summit.

The room was filled with government, business and NGO leaders from around the world. I vividly remember the ripple of euphoria in the crowd when then-President-elect Barack Obama surprised the conference with a special videotaped message on climate change. In clear terms, he pledged to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and promised legislation that would put a price on carbon. Finally! The opportunity for meaningful and measurable action on climate change had arrived! It was a highlight for many of us, all dancing and dancing in the aisles.

I never imagined President Obama would use all his political capital on the Affordable Care Act; and I could never imagine that Big Oil would succeed in a decade-long campaign of climate denial. And never, in my wildest ideas, did I imagine that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on the climate. Nor did I think that a market-based approach accepted by 40 industrialized countries would be an impossible lift for the US Congress.

While progress on climate change has been made over the past 14 years through action by the federal executive, responsible businesses, entrepreneurs, universities, nonprofits, to state legislatures and local governments, they have been more progressive than transformative (despite renewables parity with the coal grid). Essentially, the big federal “finally” climate change law never materialized — until now.

The bizarre Cut Inflation Act of 2022 offers consumers, utilities and businesses a myriad of tax incentives so strong to produce clean energy that financing and producing dirty energy will soon become the most unwise investment. As Bill Gates and former Vice President Al Gore explained, the financial calculus has been irrevocably shifted from fossil fuels to clean energy. In a New York Times opinion piece, Gates wrote, “Through new and expanded tax credits and a long-term approach, this bill ensures that critical climate solutions have sustained support to grow into new industries.” Being much more immersed in the politics of climate change, Gore said it is now certain that the fossil fuel industry and its political supporters will not be able to reverse the shift to a decarbonized world, even if the Republicans are able to regain control of Congress or the White House.

Here in Alaska, the Inflation Reduction Act offers game-changing features. Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), said, “There are a lot of things in the bill that will help Alaska. For example, the $27 billion clean energy accelerator envisioned in the legislation is essentially a federal green bank that will propel and support Alaska’s efforts to create a state green bank to provide affordable lending. average Alaskans who want to make their homes more energy efficient, or add rooftop solar.

There is also a $1 billion renewable energy loan program for rural electric cooperatives and $2.6 billion to NOAA for the restoration and protection of marine habitats and for projects that support coastal communities.

For consumers, there are subsidies to reduce the price of electric vehicles, heat pumps, solar panels and other energy-efficient improvements. I could go on and on about other good things in this bill, but suffice it to say, this time for real, it’s time to point out Etta James singing her signature song: “At Last.”

Finally, America and Alaska have been given the model and support to move unmistakably towards the clean energy economy that the rest of the world has embraced. Finally, the United States is back in the climate game – and at such a critical time, when climate change is in the midst of a crisis, as noted by the many weather-related disasters in our headlines.

Kate Troll, a lifelong Alaskan, has more than 22 years of experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska and Alaska Conservation Voters. She has been elected to local office twice, has written two books and resides in Douglas.

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