Sustainable Buildings, Carbon Trade & Public Policy – What direction will Indiana’s “Sustainable Future” take?

Sustainable Buildings, Carbon Trade & Public Policy – What direction will Indiana’s “Sustainable Future” take?

By: Jill Mendoza Last year, November 14th  2012, the USGBC, US Green Building Council, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo was held in San Francisco.  USGBC’s choice of conference location, San Francisco, was perfect because the city has been a leader in green building design and construction. There are over 700 LEED certified projects and approximately 1,300 LEED registered projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, the conference was held in the Moscone Center which has a LEED Gold rating.  In contrast the total number of LEED Projects Certified in Indiana: 139. Coincidentally, on the very same day, California opened the world’s second-largest auction for permits to release greenhouse gases, the first test of a program that aims to reduce emissions while raising billions of dollars for the state. What, price carbon?  That question seems to be splitting even those who agree that government should be pursuing policies to promote clean energy and those who say any price on carbon is misguided. Supporters say making industries that burn fossil fuels pay to spit out carbon dioxide would encourage a shift to cleaner, alternative-energy sources by making it more expensive to burn coal, gasoline or natural gas. Some favor a cap-and-trade system, which sets a limit (the cap) on emissions and creates a market where companies can buy and sell permits to discharge (the trade). Others favor a simpler tack: Tax companies on the carbon they emit. Critics, meanwhile, say any price on carbon is misguided. A better, less costly approach, they say, would be for governments to invest directly in clean-energy technologies.”  Check out this WSJ Article, Should there be a price on Carbon? It’s an excellent discussion regardless of which side of the issue you fall. So what does this have to do Indiana? Two Indiana University geography department researchers may have, in part, some answers to this question for they are studying Indiana’s carbon cycle, the balance — or imbalance — between carbon emissions from natural and manmade sources and absorption and storage by forests, and they think the public and lawmakers ought to know what they are learning.  Their website maps indicate where carbon emissions are highest: near coal-fired power plants and steel mills; and where carbon absorption is greatest: near forests. “As scientists, we don’t make policies,” Rahman said. “But maybe scientists should have a chair at the table. Maybe scientists should be part of the discussion. We want to give this information to policy makers in a way they can understand.”  My question; Why aren’t these scientist being invited to the table? Perhaps it is because the state enjoys below agerage electicity rates due to the fact that over 90 percent of its electricity is generated from coal.  According to the Institute for Energy Research  the regulatory impediments to affordable clean energy is because there is no cost-effective way to capture the carbon dioxide output of the combustion of these fuels.  So any regulations that limit carbon dioxide emissions will either limit the use of natural gas, petroleum, and coal, or dramatically increase their prices. Contrast this report with the fact that Indiana is the 2nd least green state in the US.  Second only to Ohio.  In addition, Indiana is tied with Ohio for having the lowest percent usage of renewable energy sources in the United States, with a mere 0.7%. and we have some issues with pollution. Indiana releases the greatest amount of toxic chemicals into waterways, releasing over 27 million pounds in one year. The second greatest amount, from Virgina, was significantly less at just over 18 million pounds. I don’t know why these talented scientists have been left out of the conversation or why our State’s embarrassing performance when it comes to anything sustainable is so acceptable to everyone?  This is hard to understand when the creativity and passion for developing products and services that advance a more sustainable and “forward thinking” society is right here within our borders.  For me the absence of political will and leadership on these issues, especially at the State level, is disturbing.  Although public policy is not the only solution for a truly sustainable future, it is very much a lead player in driving changes in consumer behaviors. What is recharging your personal sustainable energy right now?  What direction would you like to see sustainability in Indiana take?

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