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VIEWPOINT MIT: Dear Mr. President, Time to deal with climate change BY A N T H O N Y J. A H E R N “Amid the crises and battles, both predictable and unforeseeable, that you will face over the next four years, one problem will stand out both for the economic and social dangers it poses and for the difficulty and cost of solving it.” The above statement was in a letter to President Obama from the editors of MIT Technology Review, in which they argued that to address climate change the president must develop a practical and sustainable strategy to lower carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions. First, let’s understand that any solution involves dramatically reducing CO 2 emissions worldwide. Our modern world is powered by energy, and 85 percent of that energy comes from fossil fuels that emit CO 2 when burned. Absent substantial, reliable and affordable non-fossil fuel energy supplies, CO 2 reductions can only be achieved by going without energy. Think of life back in the 1800s when wood, horses, whale oil and manpower empowered daily life. The MIT editors candidly state what some policymakers are loath to admit. Renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and advanced biofuels, are simply not ready to compete with fossil fuels. The editors make the case that new and far more advanced technologies are needed. They credit President Obama for bringing new life to the search for cleaner energy. But they declare the president’s $90 billion in stimulus spending on clean energy projects a valiant but failed effort. They want the president to advocate “immediate spending and economic sacrifice by present-day voters.” The editors acknowledge the magnitude of the challenge. They concede climate solutions are not available today and may only materialize in the future. They apparently don’t think that CO 2 reductions in the near term are possible. They call for the president to “formulate a policy” to show us the way. In the last paragraph of the letter, they write that carbon emissions should begin to decline by 2017 — or else it will be “too late.” They apparently don’t know what others at MIT have already realized: China is building coal-fired power plants at a rapid clip to satisfy a voracious appetite for power. India and other nations around the world also are stepping up construction of power plants that use fossil fuel. My viewpoint is that, at best, all that can be done in the short term is substantial research and development. Spending great sums of money on today’s conventional technologies — when we know they are not up to the challenge — may prevent us from making needed investment in long-term future solutions. Finally, the plea for elevating climate change to the pinnacle of societal issues suggests blindness to the human condition. The editors apparently put little value on how hundreds of millions of people were lifted out of poverty through the past use of fossil fuels — and the additional millions of people worldwide who will see their quality of life change, thanks to the availability of reliable and affordable energy from coal, oil and natural gas. 2 COUNTRY LIVING • FEBRUARY 2013 Volume 55, No. 5 February 2013 Contact us: Anthony Ahern Steve Oden Rich Warren John Howley Chris Hall Bernice Mattison Nikki Heath Adam Specht Margie Wuebker Chip Gross Sandy Woolard Tim Dickes President & CEO Dir. of Comm. Managing Editor Editor Art & Prod. Manager Publications Coord. Graphic Artist Comm. Specialist Food Editor Outdoors Editor Advertising Advertising COUNTRY LIVING (ISSN 0747-0592) is the official publication of Ohio Rural Electric Co- operatives, Inc. With a paid circulation of 294,786, it is the monthly communication link between the rural elec tric cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia and their members. 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POSTMASTER: Send address changes to editorial and advertising offices at: 6677 Busch Boulevard Columbus, OH 43229-1101 Telephone — 614-846-5757 Serving on the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Board of Trustees are George Brake, chairman; Dennis W. Schindler, vice chairman; Jack Schmidt, secretary/treasurer; Charles Grimes, Paul Berridge, Thomas McQuiston, Robert McCort, Donald McCracken, Jack L. Kitchel, Daniel McNaull, Robert E. Wise, Shirley J. Stutz, David Corbin, Barry Jolliff, Warren Taylor, James R. McConnell, Eugene Royer, Mitch Headley, John Saxton, Edward P. Sanders, Harold E. Cooper, Larry Weirich, Jeff Wilson and David P. Miller. Anthony J. Ahern, president; Kurt Helfrich, counsel. A