Group calls for transition to clean energy

Earth Ministry/WAIPL brought faith leaders to the table with community of color members, labor representatives, and environmental policymakers for this important conversation about a just transition to a clean energy economy in the Skagit Valley.  

Energy Crossroads Community Forum, My. Vernon

Photo Credit: Stand Up to Oil

By Kimberly Cauvel 
Skagit Valley Herald 
April 29, 2016 

MOUNT VERNON — Each day millions of Americans switch on lights, start the engines to their cars and use electronics — all of which are largely powered by the burning of fossil fuels.

Is it possible to end the nation’s reliance on gasoline, coal and other carbon dioxide-producing fuels?

A group that held an “Energy Crossroads” forum Wednesday at the Lincoln Theatre thinks so. They said now is the time to start making changes.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing, but I’ll tell you what, it is not too early,” said KC Golden, senior policy adviser for Climate Solutions, a Seattle-based nonprofit that supports the development of clean energy. “We are in the thick of the climate crisis.”

The event was sponsored by Climate Solutions, local groups such as Evergreen Islands and Protect Skagit, national groups including OneAmerica, Earth Ministry, Stand.Earth and the Sierra Club.

They said Western Washington will play an important role in a nationwide energy transition because several projects to expand the use of coal and oil are planned for the region.

The Shell and Tesoro refineries at March Point near Anacortes have proposed expansion projects.

Shell wants to build an oil train unloading facility so it can receive crude oil by rail, and Tesoro wants to upgrade some of its equipment so it can extract xylene from crude oil to create a new product line.

Speakers at the Wednesday event said those proposals — along with an oil terminal proposed for Vancouver, Washington, and a coal terminal proposed for Cherry Point north of Bellingham — would be steps in the wrong direction.

While the speakers said they don’t want to see those projects move forward, they also said they also don’t want to see industries such as refineries and railroads shuttered, which would mean a huge loss of jobs and economic activity.

Jen Wallis, of Rail Workers United, said the transition to clean energy doesn’t need to be about protecting the environment at the expense of jobs. But how to balance the two has yet to be seen.

“How do we transition from a fossil fuel economy to a green energy economy?” OneAmerica Organizing Director Fernando Mejia-Ledesma said. “How do we go through this transition? It’s going to be a difficult one.”

Forum speakers acknowledged change will likely take decades.

They encouraged individuals to continue conversations about the issues, instill a positive vision for the future in today’s youth and turn out to vote.

“This forum, this community, this conversation happening in this community is exactly at the center of what we need to do (to tackle climate change),” Golden said.

Scientists have said that by burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, humans are contributing to climate change.

Government officials have acknowledged the risks of climate change, most recently with the international agreement reached in Paris in December and signed by 175 countries on Earth Day.

Some religious leaders, including Pope Francis, have taken a stance on the issue.

The Rev. Cody Natland, a pastor at a Sedro-Woolley church, spoke on the issue at the forum.

“We’ve taken God’s creation and caused serious, although hopefully not irreparable, damage,” he said. “It’s time now to make that change, to start that (energy) transition.”

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