By Wes Sims and McCall Johnson
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on historic legislation to repower America with clean energy. The legislation will have a major positive impact on the future of Waco and central Texas and we hope Congressman Chet Edwards supports it.
Our reliance on the dirty energy of the past is draining our economy, threatening our security, and putting our planet in peril. We spend more than $400 million every day on foreign oil. Pollution from burning oil, coal and natural gas threatens the air we breathe and the water our children drink.
We can do better.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) will help build America’s clean energy economy and launch the United States’ first national plan of action to address the growing threat of climate change. ACES offers our country the most important opportunity in generations to jumpstart our economy, create millions of new, well-paying jobs, and set the stage for America to compete and prosper in a 21st century economy.
Central Texas already has a head start in developing clean energy solutions, a competitive advantage which will only grow with the passage of ACES. According to the Waco Chamber of Commerce, "Waco is on its way to becoming known as Texas' green, livable city”. The Chamber of Commerce itself has taken a leadership role and boasts the first "LEED Certified" green chamber building in America. Last year, RTLC Wind Towers broke ground on a 170,000-square-foot wind tower plant in McGregor that will employ around 400 workers, including welders, fitters, computer operators, and accountants.
Perhaps in the best place to benefit from ACES are Texas farmers. Global warming-induced droughts, more damaging storms, ozone pollution, and spreading pests, weeds, and diseases are already taking their toll on agriculture. Reducing pollution is critical to protecting the industry from the worst impacts of global warming. The good news is agriculture has a lot to gain from the solutions to the problem.
As a major landowner in Texas, the agriculture industry has great access to wind and solar resources and is already benefitting from royalties from leases to wind companies. In many cases, farmers can take advantage of the energy resources with minimal impact on existing crop and animal production. Finally, agricultural wastes and livestock manure can also be used to produce electricity that would benefit from ACES.
ACES also provides incentives for farmers to increase the storage of carbon in soils. Soil is the third largest store of carbon on the planet, and using farming practices that maintain more organic matter in soils, such as dead or living plant matter and microbes, can improve productivity while keeping more carbon dioxide out of the air.
The Center for American Progress points out that the energy efficiency standard in ACES also provide farmers with the opportunity to make significant energy efficiency upgrades. Farmers are eligible for federal tax credits for energy-efficient appliances to help them reduce energy use. “Dairy farms, which use more energy than most farms due to the energy-intensive nature of milk production, could in particular benefit from the savings from using energy more efficiently. Installation of energy-efficient lighting, ventilation fans, and milking systems could save a farmer hundreds of dollars a year”. Many farmers are in a position to save considerably more, thousands of dollars, in a given year.
This is one of the most important votes of our time. There are rare moments in American history when the urgency to act is clear, the stakes are high, the costs of inaction are untenable, and the need for courageous leadership is paramount. Now is one of those moments. We hope Congressman Edwards stands on the right side of history.
McCall Johnson is the Clean Energy Advocate for Environment Texas. Wes Sims is the President of the Texas Farmers Union.
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