A growing number of houses of worship and faith-inspired organizations are joining scientists, activists and other concerned citizens to speak out about the urgent importance of addressing climate change. Among those groups is Interfaith Power and Light, where the new chairman of the board is longtime civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley. State of Belief host Rev. Welton Gaddy will speak with the Dr. Durley about the growing religious voice on climate change and how faith groups are getting engaged in the fight for our planet. Listen Now
Published in the Lincoln Journal Star
By: Ken Winston
Public power is a good thing, and the Lincoln Electric System (LES) does a good job, with low electric rates and reliable service. LES’s investments in renewable energy save money for its customer-owners while benefiting the environment.
On the other hand, LES needs its customer-owners to be engaged if it is to live up to its mission statement — being “a progressive leader, partnering with the community to maximize energy value and quality of life in an environmentally responsible manner” — and every public entity should be open to improvement. There is a public hearing on LES’ budget and rates this Thursday at the LES Service Center, 2620 Fairfield St. I encourage people to come out to learn about LES’ proposed budget and make comments.
My concern: LES’ proposal to cut the funding for its successful Sustainable Energy Program (SEP) in half. SEP provides funds for energy efficiency improvements for homes and businesses. I understand why LES is proposing this reduction, since demand for the program is down. However, the need is not.
We are facing two major challenges that need attention now: climate change and increasing levels of poverty in our community. The negative impacts of climate change are well documented and so extensive they deserve a column of their own.
The 2017 Lincoln Vital Signs report found that the number of people in poverty in Lincoln had increased by 45 percent in the previous decade. Fortunately, renewable energy and energy efficiency provide cost-effective methods of mitigating the impacts of climate change, and we live in a strong community with many resources that can be used to assist people living in poverty.
Energy use in heating and cooling buildings is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. The Rocky Mountain Institute has found that increasing building energy efficiency is a key component in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programs like SEP are an important tool in this effort.
Instead of cutting the funding for the SEP program, LES could develop a energy-efficiency assistance program for low-income households. Community Action administers a program like this, but they have a waiting list of eligible clients — and some people are unable to use their program due to regulatory limitations.
LES has considered creating an energy-efficiency program to assist low income residents. They have dedicated staff that can make use of best practices from other programs across the country to make it successful.
Increasing energy efficiency provides benefits for all concerned. Lower bills and healthier homes provide immediate benefits to the individuals involved, many of whom are elderly or families with small children. Energy-efficiency projects provide jobs that cannot be outsourced and help local businesses. And helping reduce people’s energy bills means fewer disconnects for the utility, fewer bills that go unpaid and fewer costs that must be covered by other customers.
My Christian faith says that we have a moral obligation to stand up for those in need in our community, the “least of these” among us. Maintaining funding from the SEP program would provide help for more people in need while simultaneously helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Finally, I am concerned about whether the public has been fully engaged in this process. LES does many good things and it would benefit both LES and its customer-owners to hear from each other. The SEP program is an important resource for the community and deserves to be maintained. Let’s work together to help LES better represent all of Lincoln’s residents and its needs and values.
Ken Winston is the Outreach and Policy Director of Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, a nonpartisan interfaith organization dedicated to bringing diverse faith messages to address climate change and care of creation.
To the Editor:
As a person of faith, a United Methodist Woman, and a proud Ford owner, I ask Ford to stop undermining the Clean Car Standards it promised to support and build the clean cars consumers want and our climate demands.
The name Ford was always spoken with reverence in my household. Growing up in Metro Detroit, my grandfather, Joe, was proud to tell his grandkids of his career at Ford’s Paint and Vinyl Plant in Mt. Clemens where he worked with his brother, Jim. As family lore goes, Uncle Jim suggested taking some cord out of a vinyl trim piece that ended up saving Ford millions of dollars. Jim was rewarded with a new car. My grandfather, Uncle Jim, and his 4 other brothers had a combined 240 years of seniority when they retired from Ford in the late 80s.
I have few memories that don’t include Ford: driving around campus at Albion College in a convertible Ford Mustang my Dad let me borrow from his Ford dealership; bringing home my first child from the hospital in a green Ford Taurus; driving to my teaching job at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic School in Grosse Pointe in my Ford Escape. Recently, my family of 5 ditched our minivan in favor of a Ford Flex. It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned.
My family owns another Ford, too, a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. After exhaustive research, we chose the C-Max because it was a way we could reflect our love of God and neighbor in our buying habits. You see, my family and I now live in southern Illinois, deep in coal country. We see and experience firsthand how clean air standards affect coal workers and the entire region. I live in a state that has a bad track record on environmental justice, locating most of our coal fired power plants in low income communities and communities of color. So when I reduce my energy consumption and improve my fuel economy, I can reduce the health impacts I have on my brothers and sisters in the grips of polluting coal plants.
We are proud to own a plug-in, almost as proud as Bill Ford was when he was on stage with President Obama when the new Clean Car Standards were announced in 2011. These standards nearly doubled average fuel economy of vehicles, with a goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025, and are the most significant policy the U.S. has to cut carbon pollution.
But now, Ford has changed its tune and claims it needs greater “flexibility” in meeting the standards. And the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to weaken the standards. Ford’s reversal is clearly not based on any real technical or financial challenge in building the cleaner cars they promised. Ford has received billions in loans from U.S. taxpayers to engineer the advanced vehicles of tomorrow. And recent government and industry reviews have shown that automakers can comply with the standards.
It is unconscionable for Ford to renege on its commitment to cleaner cars now. I ask Ford to put people and planet over profits and stand by its promise.
NEWS RELEASE Contact: Susan Stephenson
September 11, 2018 (415) 561-4891; (510) 484-7198
Faith leaders condemn EPA Proposal to Roll back Methane Pollution Standards
Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to weaken methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. These commonsense safeguards were designed to limit the release of methane pollution, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas infrastructure, and also to help protect communities from other dangerous pollutants released alongside methane. Methane is leaked into the air (often wasting millions of dollars) when gas is vented and flared, and also in transport.
Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light, stated: “All faith traditions share a sacred calling to care for the earth and to care for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Methane pollution causes deep and irreparable harm to God’s good Creation, polluting not only the land and the air, but also jeopardizing the health of children and those living in frontline communities. Any proposals to weaken or do away with safeguards against methane pollution are unethical and immoral.”
Methane is a significant driver of climate change, and a rollback of these critical health protections would put our families’ health at risk. This rollback marks the beginning of a two-part scheme by Wheeler and the Trump Administration to dramatically weaken standards to control dangerous pollution.
Sister Joan Brown, Executive Director New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, said: “People of faith made thousands of comments in support of strong EPA methane standards through a long public process. Methane pollution is hurting our children in New Mexico and stealing over $250 million annually from our state budget that funds education. The droughts and fires we experienced this summer are related to methane which is a cause of climate change. This is a grave moral and ethical concern. People of faith in New Mexico will continue to work for the Common Good and our sacred creation.”
Interfaith Power & Light is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
Published in the East Bay Times
By Dan Kalb and Susan Stephenson
With the Trump Administration working to weaken automobile efficiency and pollution standards, policymakers in Sacramento and in cities up and down our state need to boost our collective leadership in the fight against climate change.
An enforceable policy to mandate zero-emission cars would create an ambitious pathway for transitioning away from gasoline-powered vehicles, making California the first state to take this landmark step toward a clean-energy future.
We need the state to set an ambitious and achievable phase-out date for selling new gas-powered passenger cars. All new cars purchased in California after this date would have to be clean, zero-emission vehicles. This new mandate would create certainty for automakers by establishing a robust market for clean cars while identifying a predictable timeline for electric utilities to ensure an orderly transition.
The time has never been riper to embrace this bold, climate-friendly approach and double down on California’s commitment to both a green economy and protecting public health in our communities.
Extracting and refining oil contaminates our water and air and pollutes our climate. The burning of gasoline in cars adds to greenhouse gas pollution and harms public health.
Children living near busy roads are more likely to have learning deficits and asthma. According to the American Lung Association, California’s economy wastes $15 billion a year in preventable health costs due to the impacts of air pollution, including respiratory illness, premature mortality and lost workdays.
And we know that a warming world leads to more air pollution in our communities.
State law should give the auto industry the firm nudge it needs to improve the performance and its array of zero-emission vehicle offerings. The technologies already exist to move us forward.
Thanks to savings on fuel and maintenance and an array of incentives and discounts available for lower-income drivers, some clean-car models already are affordable to many of California’s working families. Imagine how much more appealing clean cars will become as prices continue to drop and model options grow.
Passenger cars are the single biggest source of California’s carbon pollution. A comprehensive clean car strategy is essential for California to reach our vitally important greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and continue to lead the way across the country.
Transitioning to clean cars will create tens of thousands of California jobs related to transport electrification. We’ll also see economic growth from fuel-cost savings. Every dollar saved at the gas pump and spent on other goods and services ultimately will create 16 times more jobs in California than those supported by the oil industry.
The California Air Resources Board is doing a good job in moving the needle forward on clean cars, yet our state is still behind globally when it comes to phasing out gasoline. Several countries already have committed to ending sales of gas and diesel cars over the next decade or two, including England, France, Norway and India.
Additionally, there is still more work to do statewide and locally to ensure we have the infrastructure to support these zero-emission vehicles.
Government regulation of vehicles is a proven method of improving public health. For example, mandating the switch to unleaded fuel and the use of catalytic converters has helped to clean up our air and prevent many deaths.
We must push back against the harmful and regressive environmental policies of the Trump Administration and take one bold action after another to further reduce air pollution and fight climate change.
In addition to strong, market-based incentive programs, phasing in zero-emission car mandates and phasing out petroleum fuel production would be smart and essential steps in that direction.
Dan Kalb is an Oakland City Council member and vice-chair of the East Bay Community Energy authority serving Alameda County. Susan Stephenson is executive director of California Interfaith Power & Light and vice-chair of the League of Conservation Voters of the East Bay.