HANOVER – Policymakers looking to tackle climate change should turn their attention to “smaller” solutions that, when scaled up, could make a big difference in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, US Senator Jeanne said on Monday Shaheen, DN.H ..
When people think of energy, she said, minds often turn to large public works, such as hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants and offshore wind farms.
“But a bunch of what we can do both at home and abroad are very small initiatives,” the three-term senator said at an energy conference sponsored by Dartmouth College. âThis is what each of us can do by thinking about the energy consumption in our homes. It is a question of efficiency.
Shaheen cited the town of North Conway, New Hampshire, as an example. The sewage treatment plant mainly uses energy from a nearby solar panel, she said.
âIt’s a relatively small project and yet if we think about the energy used by wastewater treatment in this country, it represents 4% of our total energy consumption,â Shaheen said.
Shaheen, former governor of New Hampshire, discussed her perspective on energy policy during day one of the “Investing in Our Energy Future” sustainable energy conference hosted by the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Dartmouth Energy and Society.
The virtual conference seeks to explore ways to increase access to energy while tackling climate change.
While she encouraged participants to aim for smaller, easier-to-accomplish climate efforts, Shaheen said she always supports large-scale actions.
During a discussion of about half an hour, she introduced her energy saving and industrial competitiveness bill as one such effort, saying it could help reduce emissions at national and local level. Parts of the bill, which was first introduced in 2011 and seeks to strengthen building codes, provide more training for construction workers and order the federal government to partner with manufacturers to seeking more climate-friendly technologies have become law.
But comprehensive legislation has not reached a president’s office, including a call for more energy-efficient building codes.
âIf we could just slightly increase the efficiency of homes and commercial buildingsâ¦ you would see a huge reduction in carbon emissions,â said U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who co-wrote the bill and joins Shaheen at the conference. He said the building sector accounts for around 76% of electricity consumption and 40% of all primary energy use in the country.
Portman, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also stressed the need to “focus on the world situation” when addressing climate change.
“I think people need to recognize that as we are only focusing on the United States in terms of CO2 emissions, we will not be successful in meeting our targets,” he said, adding that the country had to share technology with emerging economies.
While Shaheen agreed, the two senators differed over how the country should engage with the others.
Portman opposed the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a goal of limiting global warming, while Shaheen supports the agreement.
“Obviously, to make (the agreement) effective, we have to make sure that we work with other countries to get things done,” she said.
The challenge facing lawmakers and the Biden administration over climate change is “enormous,” said Mary Nichols, former chair of the California Air Resources Board earlier today.
The world is fast approaching a point where the “worst impacts” of climate change cannot be avoided, she said, adding that there is still hope in new technologies and policies.
âWe live in a time of great opportunity as well as great threats and challenges,â she said.
The biggest threat is the human desire to postpone tough decisions, warned Nichols, saying policymakers no longer have that luxury.
The world has about 29 years left to achieve a net zero carbon economy, said David Turk, deputy secretary of the US Department of Energy, who has joined Nichols.
âTwenty-nine years is not a lot of years to fundamentally transform our energy economy, our agriculture and get to a net zero period,â Turk said.
Portman, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1978, has said he will not be running again next year.
He twice voted to acquit Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment process, although he did vote to certify Joe Biden’s election to the Electoral College.
The conference continues on Tuesday with events on new technologies, expanding access to energy and increasing investment in clean energy sources.
Tim Camerato can be contacted at [email protected] or 603-727-3223.
Some provisions of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have become law in recent years. However, the two lawmakers have yet to introduce new legislation this year to enact the remaining parts. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the status of the legislation.