The Waco Tribune-Herald reported on February 20th that the upcoming 2022 power contract for the City of Waco will be sourced from 100% clean, renewable energy. This is a critical milestone for the City and the Waco Friends of Peace/Climate (FOP/C) thank and congratulate the City Council on this decision. For the past two years, FOP/C’s Go Renewable Waco campaign has vigorously exhorted the City to make the transition to all renewable energy, and we are gratified by this outcome. Understanding the history of this transition is vital to making future progress on energy.
The People Speak. Beginning in February 2018, the FOP/C, with a crowd of about 50 members, called on the City Council to join over 100 U.S. cities and take the pledge to go 100% renewable by 2050. This pledge entails the transition to clean energy by all users in all sectors: power generation, transportation, buildings, cooling, heating, cooking, industry, and agriculture. The pledge was supported by 1500 petition signatures, a dozen local churches and non-profits, over 100 major corporations, over 45 U.S. universities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But most important, we spoke for those 76,000 Waco residents who call for the City Council to do more to mitigate global warming (Yale poll, 2018).
Over this 2-year period, we gave multiple similar presentations to City administrative groups, the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board, and the biweekly City Council Hearing of Visitors. Throughout this time, we stressed that the greatest impetus for rapidly moving away from fossil fuels was the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises. To respect the IPCC deadline of 45% decarbonization by 2030, we asserted that it was mandatory the 2022 City energy contract be 100% renewable. Further, major energy analyses, from Lazard and Bloomberg NEF, found that in 2017 wind and solar electricity were already globally cheaper than natural gas- derived power.
The “Expert” Speaks. The City’s reaction to our demands was the hiring of an energy consultant, Bryan Shaw, Ph.D. Unfortunately, multiple publications had reported that Shaw rejected contemporary climate science. In fact, he gave a presentation in Waco in March 2019 brimming with denialist memes, including “climate has changed, always has, always will.” Placing Shaw in charge of energy planning was like placing a cancer denier in charge of chemotherapy. Unsurprisingly, Shaw’s “Energy Guidance Document” does not mention climate change, the climate crisis, or global warming, and praises natural gas. It fails to acknowledge the urgency of moving to renewable energy and provides no comparison of fossil fuel and renewable energy prices.
The City of Waco Decides. Thus, the City Administration and Council were hearing two voices. First, the alarmed citizens demanded renewable energy in response to the climate emergency, noting this choice would also save money. Second, the consultant’s energy report ignored the climate emergency, praised natural gas, and provided no cost comparison. Fortunately, the City followed the view of its citizens and chose a 7-year contract for wind and solar energy, shrinking its carbon footprint, while saving about $414,000 annually. Although the City will save money with this renewable energy agreement, it is very clear that persistent citizen demand led to this decision. Footnote: the flawed report from Bryan Shaw cost the City over $40,000; accurate input from the citizens was free.
Hire Assistant City Manager for Sustainability and Climate. The all renewable electricity contract for municipal needs is a great victory for which our compliments go to the City. However, this is just a first step: the total switch to clean energy must involve all City sectors, plus residences and businesses. To complete this Herculean task before the IPCC deadline of 2050, we firmly believe the City must have an employee dedicated to this assignment only. We call on the City to create the position of Assistant City Manager for Sustainability and Climate. This Manager must be deeply knowledgeable in climate science, IPCC deadlines, and the multitude of climate solutions.
If you are one of the 135,000 McLennan County residents who want the City to act on the climate crisis to help protect the future of your children, please take one minute to sign our petition calling for the hiring of this Assistant City Manager. Go to www.change.org, use search box for “Waco climate manager,” and sign the petition.
Recently, one billion of our fellow creatures perished in the climate enraged bushfires in Australia. Do we need to witness more devastation to take action?
Alan D. Northcutt, M.D.
February 25, 2020
Alan Northcutt is a Waco physician and Director of the climate action organization, the Waco Friends of Peace/Climate
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