Opinion » Guest Opinions

Idaho Must Support Clean Energy Legislation


The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDA), led by all members of the Idaho delegation, is a perfect demonstration of Idaho leaders’ ability to promote non-partisan conservation. Despite the commonly shared value for environmental protection in Idaho, comprehensive climate change legislation seems to bring great division within our state. Our leaders need to come together, like they have done in the past, to support comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation including firm limits on carbon pollution in order to:

1.Break our national addiction to dirty fossil fuels of which the danger has been demonstrated by the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

2.Promote innovative new technologies such that states like Idaho lead the clean energy revolution—not China.

3.Overcome delay to move forward with solutions that put Americans in control of our national security.

Why Idaho? According to more than 50 different scientific studies and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC, 2009), the West is being affected more by climate change than any other part of the U.S. outside of Alaska. The consequences of climate change that face Idaho are startling and are already visible as Idaho has seen an 80 percent greater rise in average temperature over the past five years than the rest of the world (1.8˚F). Hotter average temperatures coupled with higher drought frequency are responsible for increases in wildfires throughout the West—with detrimental impacts on tourism, fishing, hunting and agriculture in Idaho (IPCC). In 2008, Idaho was forced to cancel sage grouse hunting season after wildfires destroyed much of the bird’s habitat the prior year. Idaho, the only inland western state with ocean-run and steelhead salmon, is experiencing steep declines in fish populations. Warmer winters and droughts have caused unprecedented beetle infestations in Idaho forests requiring a $14 million rescue from the Department of Agriculture.

There is something that can be done to both combat the effects of climate change while ensuring Idaho’s and our nation’s security. A comprehensive clean energy plan that holds polluters accountable has the potential to cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and dramatically reduce carbon pollution. Instead of spending $1 billion per day on imported oil—ultimately sending money to countries that do not like us much—we can invest in a clean energy revolution and carbon reduction plan that will help strengthen Idaho. We are already on the right track with nearly three quarters of Idaho’s electricity provided by non-polluting sources such as hydroelectric.

The last thing we want to do in tough economic times is stress our economy more, but Idaho businesses see this as a big win for the state. Over 50 companies with more than 20,000 employees from Idaho have called on Congress to enact comprehensive climate change legislation. Comprehensive legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (as President Barack Obama mentioned in his Oval Address) will help, not hurt, Idaho’s economy with the potential for over 8,000 new jobs in Idaho as a result of clean-energy investments. Clean-energy related jobs have the potential to reduce unemployment in Idaho by 1.2 percentage points with over half of the new jobs going to workers with high school degrees or less. Families could reduce their household expenses by roughly 4 percent as a result of efficiency improvements in their homes. We can do all of this with comprehensive clean energy legislation that places a limit on carbon pollution. I implore the Idaho delegation to get to work on making Idaho and our nation safer, cleaner and stronger through comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation.

Andrew Peterman grew up in Boise and holds a combined B.S./M.S. in civil and environmental engineering. He is an energy and climate change adviser to the Walt Disney Company and a National Science Foundation Fellow at Stanford University pursuing his Ph.D.