I’ve been engaged in the challenge of climate change and energy policy for more than a decade and I’ve seen lots of ups and downs, but never did I expect monumental leadership from a Republican Alaskan Senator. I’ve seen lots of tinkering around the edges but nothing as bold as what Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, just delivered in the stimulus relief bill recently signed by the president.
Included in the energy package are roughly $4 billion for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal research and development; $1.7 billion to help low-income families install renewable energy sources in their homes; and $2.6 billion for the Energy Department’s sustainable transportation programs. These are all programs in which Alaska is uniquely positioned to take advantage of and in the process create thousands of jobs.
Perhaps most significant for the climate is the measure to cut the production of hydrofluorocarbons by 85% over the next 15 years. HFCs is the chemical used in air conditioners and refrigerators and is thousands of times more potent than carbon-dioxide as a greenhouse gas. In fact, refrigerant management is the No.1 solution out of a hundred solutions proposed by Project Drawdown, the most comprehensive plan to reverse global warming. Some scientists think the measure to cut production of HFC could save as much as half a degree Celsius warming.
While the focus of the stimulus bill is on economic relief for the pandemic, the real sleeper is the relief and hope this bill offers for a rapidly warming Earth. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Senator Murkowski for playing a pivotal role in delivering this much needed relief.
• Kate Troll served on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s Climate Mitigation Advisory Group and was the only Alaskan invited to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Global Climate Summit in 2008. She served six years on the Board of Directors for the Renewable Energy Alaska Project and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Renewable Juneau.