Why build pipelines to the past when we create a new future?

March 15, 2017

The Dakota Access oil pipeline appears to be part of America’s future, regardless of protests and previous stop-orders. But it’s a pipeline to America’s past — a past in which fossil-fuel dependence was the only course.

We’ve argued this before, over the Keystone pipeline. While the Dakota Access pipeline will produce a few jobs in the United States during construction, it’s a much bigger financial boon to the fossil-fuel investors and interests who are pushing the project.

It also ignores resources we should be relying on instead of oil.

Just as fossil fuels are our past, California – and specifically our advances in transforming to a renewable-energy economy – is the country’s future. California is committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which stem largely from burning fossil fuels. The Central Valley region, with UC Merced’s research and the natural resources that are so abundant here – sun and biomass – will be an important player in providing affordable renewable energy from alternative-energy sources.

The University of California system aims to achieve carbon neutrality in campus operations by 2025, a challenging but achievable goal that will provide the state and nation an example to follow and, as important, the technology and innovation to be able to do it.

The UC leads the state in applicable research and is going to play a critical role in solving alternative-energy challenges. As California goes, so goes much of the nation. And UC Merced, with its solar-energy, biomass and other energy-related research, is poised at the front of this new charge.

Our region and nation need positive steps and public symbols of moving to more renewable energy and away from fossil-carbon-intensive energy. The clearest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow human-caused climate warming is to leave fossil carbon in the ground.

That means reducing our energy use or shifting to renewable sources, or some combination of the two. Either way, as we reduce fossil-fuel use in the region, we can imagine healthier air to breathe year round, transforming the quality of life, making the region a more attractive place to live and work, and laying the foundation for a sustainable economy.

It’s going to take innovation, partnerships, collective vision and – most of all – committed action.

Some investments are taking place, but we need more. A push toward sustainable energy can help develop attractive jobs in the near-term and achieve a better future for our children.

Californians are taking collective steps away from fossil fuels, and we must maintain that distance regardless of what happens in Washington. Renewable energy and sustainability, along with healthy growth, are foundations for a robust and diverse economy.

The stakes are high and sizable investments by the coal, oil and gas industries in the political process and public information have become part of the cost of doing business. Just as the university can achieve its 2025 goals, so can California if we all embrace the vision of a future free from oil and cooperate in achieving that goal.

It’s time for California to step forward and show the rest of the country how we’re going to build our sustainable energy future.