by Christina Russell
At some point in our youth we learned about our Founding Forefathers, the Pilgrims, that there were originally 13 colonies and a man named John Winthrop, who talked about his city on a hill. It wasn’t until freshman orientation day this past August, when I was arriving by car to Walla Walla, that I fully reckoned with Winthrop’s poorly spelled manuscript, written those many years ago in 1630.
There they were, populating the hillside, white shafts of hope, emanating clean, fossil-fuel free power for the state of Washington. In effect, their own city, a beacon for the environmental values of which I, as a microcosm of the Washington State citizenry at large, am desirous to uphold.
With an election coming up, the multitude of opinions of Walla Walla’s windmills, some of which quite possibly aren’t as laden in American History jargon as mine, have given rise to a state-wide initiative, I-937, on the importance of investing in the proliferation of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
As it states, I-937 strives to “guarantee that by 2020, 15 percent of the electricity from Washington’s largest utilities comes from plentiful and home-grown renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and help homeowners and businesses save on energy bills by assuring that we get all the cost-saving energy efficiency available in this state” (yeson937.org).
Why is it important to invest in renewable energy? With the recent growth of Washington’s population and businesses, our utilities need energy. Unfortunately, because there are no regulations, this energy has been demanded in the form of coal and other fossil fuels, which pose a serious threat to the health and environmental standards in our state.
Fossil fuels affect the air and land and disrupt the climate by producing an excess amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Because fossil fuels are only available in certain locations globally, this form of energy also forces Washington to be dependent on the oft-unpredictable fluctuation in prices that has been most recently spotlighted by the cut in oil production by OPEC. Pollutants from power plants generate toxins that poison the throats of citizens, increasing the likelihood of asthma and even lung cancer.
These problems can be prevented, but only if we demonstrate that energy efficiency and cleanliness is a priority on the ballot.
What is so fortunate about I-937 is that it actually helps generate jobs in the process of preserving our environment. Farmers that host wind projects can earn up to $5,000 per turbine, money that in the recent fuel shortage can help preserve and support family farming.
Even if you are not directly involved in the farming industry, implementing alternative energy projects will require the help of citizens involved in engineering, construction and building design; subsequently, this initiative will produce jobs that are otherwise uncalled for in a state that currently relies on foreign oil for a majority of energy needs.
15 percent by 2020, it’s a start. Ideally, voting yes on this initiative will demonstrate to our representatives that we value the environment in which we live.
Students of the Whitman Community, I challenge you to ask yourselves, if 15 percent of the electricity from Washington’s largest utilities will come from renewable energy sources in 2020, what can it be in our lifetime? Who knows, if John Winthrop had the resources, maybe he would have thrown in a couple wind turbines himself.
For more information visit http://www.energysecuritynow.org on the web.