21 Percent Over 16 Years

By Beacon Staff

President Barack Obama’s historic decision to act on carbon emissions will undoubtedly emit years of ideological political rhetoric. The proposal is several hundred pages but calls for a state-based solution to reducing 2005 carbon emissions by 30 percent from coal plants over the next 16 years.

Congress ignores carbon pollution but routinely doles out hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds for weather-related mitigation like super-storm disaster relief, fierce forest fires and selective crop insurance.

Whether an individual feels that the president’s proposal goes too far, or not far enough, it’s about time that someone elected acted. From the winter’s Polar Vortex to vanishing glaciers in the park to native trout losses to timber killing beetles to freakish hailstorms pummeling croplands, action is warranted.

Back when acid rain decimated the Northeastern states, Congress and the president mandated that scrubbers be used on Midwest coal plant’s smoke stacks to capture polluting gasses.

Gov. Steve Bullock said that he would review the emissions rule so the state can provide “a made-in Montana solution.” States have several years to come up with a plan, but Montana is already generating plenty more energy from renewable sources.

In 2005, Gov. Brian Schweitzer led and convinced the Montana Legislature to adopt a Renewable Energy Portfolio. Under Schweitzer’s plan, Montana is well under way to provide 15 percent of the state’s energy from renewable source by 2015.

Planning for a 21 percent reduction in carbon from Montana over the next 16 years seems simple, but rich power interests and cowardly politicians will whine loudly.

In 2007 Schweitzer signed “clean and green” legislation that provides tax incentives for energy derived from new sources of power like wind, solar and geothermal. Given the wave of wind power that spins across the state, Schweitzer’s proposals are a success.

Schweitzer’s success was challenged by the 2011 tea-party controlled Legislature, which oddly attempted to increase taxes for renewable energy production. Ideological legislators also proposed policy statements that said global warming was good for business.

Legislatures ultimately came to grips with the fact that Montana is a net power exporter relying upon the power portfolios of neighboring and importing states, which require a mix of renewable power.

Many expect more recycled nonsense in the 2015 Legislature, which will need to implement some of the economic solutions for Montana and the generations of people who seek a plan for more stable weather.

It’s in Montana’s economic interest to come up with a state-based plan to mitigate the effects of over polluting the atmosphere with carbon. Some energy providers already seek cheaper forms of power from local sources.

The Flathead Electric Co-op partnered with the county landfill to capture the gas from trash to generate power. The Co-op partnered up with Stoltze Land and Lumber to produce bio-energy from timber waste, and coordinates with the city of Whitefish on hydropower from the Haskill Basin watershed.

Some ignore the weather, but even a farmer like me can tell that patterns are changing. From bigger and unexpected early season hail storms to a late or early springtime to precipitation that simply may never fall, the pattern is chaos.

But while some bury their heads in the sand, the National Farmers Union president said, “Agriculture stands ready to be an important part of the solution to our climate challenges. I encourage Congress and the administration to engage the agricultural community in reducing carbon pollution by creating voluntary incentive for sequestering carbon and implementing conservation strategies that preserve our limited soil and water resource.”

Working farmer and Sen. Jon Tester initially called the President’s effort a “responsible proposal.” Our generation is hopeful that more of today’s leaders responsibly act on a big economic and environmental challenge facing the planet.

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