A Modest Proposal For A Truly Renewable Future

A Modest Proposal For A Truly Renewable Future

We are being quite wasteful with our most renewable resource: people. People can solve the climate-change crisis.
Leigh Thompson
By

Today the most pressing concern of our lifetime is consistently meeting derision or ambivalence. Daily, city dwellers face this very human problem, yet fail to see its severity. We claim to care for the downtrodden individuals who are unable to find housing or employment, yet none but our fearless leader is willing to take reasonable means to improve this situation. Though honorable in intent, the Climate Summit in Paris is doomed to fall far short of a real solution.

The homeless are not the only group disenfranchised by our callousness towards suffering. More than 14 percent of the population, or 46 million of 318 million Americans, live in poverty. More than that, 35 percent of the population is on some form of federal aid program to supplement their living expenses. For the poorest among us, more than half of their income goes toward housing, not just for the roof over their heads, but also for electricity and utilities.

I have uncovered a solution to this very vexing problem. First, a question of monumental importance must be answered: how do we fix the devastating effects of global warming and anthropogenic CO2 in a way that doesn’t further harm the most ignored in society?

As if in lockstep with one another, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have continued to rise at the same rate as global population. Yet so many individuals whom global warming harms are simply unable to fight against this catastrophe of man’s creation. Until now.

Now, We Choose Between Starvation and Pollution

Clearly, coal plants must go. The dirty polluters release thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere daily. But to move away from the 518 coal-fired electric generating units (EGU) operational in America will require money, time, and one of our most precious resources: land.

Rather than wasting hundreds of billions on traditional forms of renewable electric generation like wind and solar, the U.S. must convert existing coal plants into something more agreeable and entirely renewable.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given states 14 years to construct an entirely new electric grid made of traditional renewable electric generation, like wind and solar. This will consume hundreds of thousands of acres of land.

While cost increases concern us all, those in the lowest socioeconomic tiers face a harsher challenge. For example, Germany’s aggressive pursuit of the largest and most progressive renewable portfolio has left individuals and businesses with electric rates that are two and three times higher than Americans pay. As a result, more than 300,000 Germans have been forced off the electric grid entirely.

To reverse the trends of global warming and to decrease CO2 emissions in the United States EPA’s power plant regulation scheme, the Clean Power Plan, will cost approximately $500 billion and reduce global temperatures by an estimated 0.018ºC. New transmission lines, new renewable electric generation plants, and hundreds of millions in lost asset costs appear to be the EPA’s answer to climate change. This proves the transition from traditional sources of renewable energy will be slow, ineffective, expensive, and too little, too late for our beloved planet.

Rather than wasting hundreds of billions on traditional forms of renewable electric generation like wind and solar, the U.S. must convert existing coal plants into something more agreeable and entirely renewable.

But There’s a Third Option

I notice we are being quite wasteful with our most renewable resource: people.

The standard crematorium burns at 2,000ºF and is fueled by propane or natural gas. While states regulate cremation differently, typically the recently deceased must be incinerated one by one, inside a flammable container. If these social constructs can be abandoned, we will be well on our way to becoming energy independent.

Truly, humans are the most renewable energy source on the planet, consuming energy and reproducing at voluminous rates.

Truly, humans are the most renewable energy source on the planet, consuming energy and reproducing at voluminous rates. Although reproduction has tapered off in the developed world, the world population is currently above 7 billion with the peak predicted to reach at least 9 billion. More humans mean more food, housing, and energy. Most importantly, more humans mean more CO2, and more CO2 means a more expedient degradation of the planet. The EPA and our president are acutely aware of this fact.

Certainly costs would be incurred to retrofit coal-fired EGUs, but in comparison to the financial burden the EPA would foist upon us, those costs are de minimus. In 2015 alone, the federal government set aside $4.5 billion as aid for the homeless. Diverting these funds will ensure that the United States can move the electric grid quickly toward true renewable energy.

America is rife with potential for true renewable energy. In 2013, 4 million babies were born, outpacing death rates by almost 40 percent. If 14 percent of Americans live in poverty, at least 560,000 children were born into a living situation neither they nor their parents have any substantive hope of escaping. After contemplating the remaining 35 percent of individuals on some form of welfare, I calculate the total number of children born in 2013 and forced into hand-to-mouth existence swells to 1.4 million.

Since 1980, the U.S. birth rate has been an average of 3.9 million babies a year. Assuming a constant 14 percent poverty rate, in 35 years over 19 million people have been brought into the world that only contribute to CO2 production. This is unsustainable.

Every state will no doubt need constitutional amendments to effectuate this grand plan, but as the EPA has made clear it is equally feasible for the federal government to mandate state compliance. Specifically, to dictate to each state what how to carry out carbon reduction and what form of energy mix in each state is acceptable.

First, Seize Energy Markets

Because this is a complex scheme, I will first attempt to address the nuts and bolts of my proposition. To incentivize carbon reduction and the switch to true renewable energy, the federal government must set a carbon emission cap-and-trading system for EGUs and the industrial sector.

Carbon credits would allow the business and industrial sectors to supply EGUs with truly renewable energy in exchange for carbon credits.

The first major advantage is that federal agencies will be able to control the market and dictate the allowable amount of carbon emissions in order for them to protect the earth’s atmosphere from human proliferation and advancements. Affected entities will undoubtedly balk when the federal government pulls their respective emissions reins, inundating us with shouts regarding distortions in their precious market. However, there is a solution that enables EGUs and industry to maintain a certain rate of output. Enter carbon credits.

Carbon credits would allow the business and industrial sectors to supply EGUs with truly renewable energy in exchange for carbon credits. Carbon credits will function like currency; they allow the user to maintain their desired output, so long as they can offset high emissions by buying enough carbon credits.

Carbon cap-and-trade seamlessly ties my plan together. Eager to maintain their output, our industrial giants and electric-grid operators will be willing to fund the harvest of truly renewable energy. Once established, cap-and-trade will offer our societally disadvantaged the dignified choice to save the planet.

Adults and Guardians Can Choose Self- or Other-Sacrifice

Several options for procuring truly renewable energy present themselves. Eighteen is the age of majority; the age when one can vote, contract, marry, and even smoke. Before that point, parents have an almost unalienable right to make decisions for their children. The existing legal structures, coupled with a version of Nebraska’s short-lived yet progressive safe-haven law, would serve our noble purpose.

In all events, once the individual has been painlessly euthanized, the process of sorting out who can submit the recently deceased for carbon credits may begin.

If every state would allow parental surrender up to the age of majority, formerly coal-fired EGUs would be overrun with opportunity. Furthermore, for those who continue to complain about abortion, women able to incubate may find themselves incentivized to bear and maintain the child depending on corporate prerogatives.

What is to be done for the homeless and individuals at the other end of the age spectrum? They too will be empowered to aid Mother Earth in the fight to rid our planet of the abhorrent excesses of carbon dioxide.

Certainly we would not seek to strip individuals of their most basic human rights with nary a backward glance, but to accomplish a higher purpose some liberties must be taken, or rather, exchanged for the greater good. After all, “It is true that liberty is precious — so precious that it must be rationed.”

To wit, for the homeless I will propose a three-strike system, present homelessness being the first requirement. Next, a sworn statement by an official, such as a police officer, first responder, or social worker, coupled with attestations by two competent and qualified witnesses, should suffice as evidence that the individual lacks the ability to ever overcome his or her present circumstances. To avoid abuses of the system, a magistrate would then be empowered to make the final determination.

For those with an incurable malady or those who have been judged clinically incompetent, physicians would be required to make the determination of viability. Again, in an attempt to avoid abuse, the viability determination would need support from at least two other medical professionals.

As for the elderly, who may be for all intents and purposes healthy, a separate structure is necessary. At age 65, if the individual ceases working he or she is to be immediately entered into review. This  means a panel of physicians will make the necessary determination regarding their relative value based on a number of medical factors. In efforts not to digress, suffice it to say that these medical factors will undoubtedly be of the utmost importance.

Obviously, if the elder individual is unhappy over this review he or she must be allowed to contest it, and if medical insurance and private independent funding can provide for their needs, a stay should be granted as not to unduly infringe rights and freedoms.

In all events, once the individual has been painlessly euthanized, the process of sorting out who can submit the recently deceased for carbon credits may begin.

Other Countries Already Do Some of These Things

Lest you think me harsh, I would add that we in the United States are decidedly behind the times. Belgium already provides citizens the mercy of choosing physician-certified demise. In fact, many Belgians have chosen to do just that. Should we not encourage dignity of choice whenever possible?

For families that need to unburden themselves of weak or unproductive members, this solution will provide them a handsome return.

For families that need to unburden themselves of weak or unproductive members, this solution will provide them a handsome return. No need to sink one’s life savings into a retirement home for one’s parents, or to raise, feed, and clothe an ungrateful, dimwitted, or unaffordable child. It’s not just the environment that will blossom if we embrace a truly renewable future, but the American economy too.

Certainly the Obama administration’s carbon goal is laudable, but it falls vastly short of what is necessary and will harm the poorest among us. When utility prices rise, so will prices for every other consumable good that requires electricity or fossil fuels in its production or distribution. This would leave many to perish in undignified ways during the hottest parts of summer, the coldest parts of winter, for want of food, shelter, and clothing.

Those of us with means should not force the less fortunate into an insufferable existence. Let us give them the choice to join the fight, so they may avoid dying in vain.

Leigh Thompson is a policy analyst who lives in Texas.
Photo www.Shutterstock.com

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