The drum beat for Cap & Trade

This is a re-print of an article that appeared on May 10 from Green Builder Magazine. An entire industry is being built around the anticipation of Cap & Trade. Are you ready for the impact? If not, you had better start calling, faxing, and writing Senators in DC to slow down this freight train.

The Last Barrel of Oil by Sara Gutlerman

It is predicted that the social, environmental, and financial devastation resulting from BP’s runaway oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could make Hurricane Katrina look like a light afternoon rain shower. With more than 200,000 gallons of oil gushing into the water every day, the inhabitants of already damaged wetlands and vulnerable wildlife sanctuaries are staggering from the geyser of destruction. The crude oil, along with chemicals used to disperse it, is creating a toxic soup, fatal to marine life. And people in the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast fear irreparable damage to their very way of life as they face an estimated $5.5 billion in costs and lost revenues.

This disaster is especially ironic in light of the Administration’s announcement last month to open new offshore drilling sites in US waters. The spill been likened to subprime mortgages—a peculiar wake-up call, which should transcend political parties and special interests. In the face of such calamity, politicians and business executives have an ideal opportunity to actually exhibit desperately needed leadership and implement real change that galvanizes, rather than divides, the public.

The immediate response to this latest disaster must involve bioremediation of habitat and restoration of economic opportunity for local communities. A logical second step is the development and relentless implementation of a progressive energy policy that realistically addresses today’s (and tomorrow’s) needs, including strict guidelines for energy efficiency, renewables, clean technology, and financially responsible national energy independence.

Why does it seem so hard to for Washington to pave the way to a clean energy future? Why must we drill, baby drill when we have endless rooftops that we can cover with solar panels, acres of land that we use to construct wind generators, and miles of earth in which we can employ geothermal systems?

I’m cautiously optimistic that we may be moving in the right direction, as evidenced last week by the House passing a version of the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5019), which authorizes the creation of a national energy retrofit program for American homeowners.

As the crude continues to gush from the ocean floor, the Administration is taking pause to analyze its next move, and has at least temporarily suspended approval of new offshore drilling permits until more is known about the extent of damage from the Gulf Coast oil spill.

While it is essential that we implement a national energy policy that retains US dollars within our country, it is also essential that we ask the right questions that lead to appropriate solutions.

Need I even ask? How many animals should we allow to die, how much toxic crud should we tolerate washing up on our beaches, how many chemicals should we allow to pollute our ocean before we speak out? How many dollars should we spend on remediation on this disaster that could have been used on research and development of clean energy technologies and delivery systems? Do we have to run out of oil before we take action, or can we end our destructive obsession before we are forced to endure more needless environmental damage and financial distress?

It’s time to turn our angst into action, to replace our political paralysis with execution, to make dependency on fossil fuels the next victim of enlightened policy.

Please write to me at sara@greenbuildermag.com with your thoughts about how we can bring our energy policy into the 21st century.For more information about important topics related to sustainability and green building, follow me on my Twitter page at SaraGBM.

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