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Wanted: A General Assembly to Lead NC to a Clean Energy Future

America’s first offshore wind project has received the final okay from the Department of the Interior [1] last week after years of delay. The project, named Cape Wind, will be located off Nantucket Sound, MA, and once operational, will power 400,000 homes. The announcement from Secretary Salazar came just before the one-year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Meanwhile back home, NC Republican legislators used the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico disaster to promote offshore energy – but what kind? The bill, the Energy Jobs Act [2], would require the governor to develop a strategy with VA and SC to bring offshore exploration and drilling of oil and gas to our coast. While there is nod to renewables and efficiency in the bill, the focus is clearly on oil and gas. Because drilling off the east coast have been postponed until 2017 due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Republicans are trying to ready the state to drill baby, drill.


© Simon Lim/Greenpeace

The recent estimate that the Gulf oil spill could cost BP $21 BILLION should be enough for NC elected officials to consider a different path for our state’s energy future.

Bills introduced in this session of the General Assembly that could actually make a dent in global warming, site large renewable projects and reduce energy use include:

Offshore Wind Jobs and Economic Development Act [4]

The NC Utilities Commission would require utilities to make long-term contracts for 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind to be built over a period of seven to ten years. The first off-shore project would have to start producing power by Dec. 31, 2017.

Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates Bill [5]

The NC Utilities Commission would be required to design an inverted utility rate structure that would result in a reduction of energy consumption in our state of 40-60% of 2010 levels by the year 2021.

These two proposals alone could begin the much needed transition away from dirty fossil fuels that are not just polluting our environment, and wasting precious time to address global warming, but are making us sick.   A recent Harvard study [6] shows “the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.”

So when oil spills cost $21 Billion and burning coal costs $500 billion a year, why aren’t our elected officials leading the path to a clean energy future instead?