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 U.S. senator from Alaska. I’ve seen lots of tinkering around the edges but nothing as bold as what Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, 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 (HFCs) by 85% over the next 15 years. HFCs are the chemicals used in air conditioners and refrigerators and is thousand times more potent than carbon-dioxide as a greenhouse gas. In fact, refrigerant management is the No. 1 solution out of 100 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 of global 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 Sen. Murkowski for playing a pivotal role in delivering this much-needed relief.
Kate Troll, a longtime Alaskan, has more than 22 years of experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director for United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Conservation Voters. She’s been elected to local office twice, written two books and resides in Douglas.
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