By Chad Tolman
Chad Tolman is energy chairman of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Oct. 15 News Journal had a front-page article titled, "Del.'s champion for cleaner air." It was referring of course to Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, who has done more to protect the environment and promote clean air than most other members of Congress.
Cleaner air may require some upfront investment in scrubbers for power plants and more efficient (higher gas mileage) automobiles, but those investments will more than pay for themselves in terms of fewer premature deaths, fewer hospital and doctor visits, and less mental retardation in children as a result of prenatal mercury exposure.
Sen. Carper is a champion not only because he is trying to protect us from conventional pollutants like SO2, NOx, ozone and mercury, but because he has the courage to speak out about climate change -- driven largely by emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels -- that threatens our future.
Delaware is vulnerable not only because we are downwind from a number of dirty coal-burning power plants to the west, but also because sea level rise from global warming is going to hit us hard.
We have the lowest average elevation (60 feet) of any state in the country -- including Florida and Louisiana.
We have a long shoreline and a lot of homes, businesses, beaches, wildlife habitat and infrastructure like roads, wastewater treatment plants, and the Port of Wilmington near current sea level.
We have a tide gauge at Lewes showing that sea level rose more than a foot there during the past century. And the rise is accelerating as both Greenland and Antarctica lose ice at increasing rates.
The shoreline at Fowler Beach moved landward about 300 feet in the 66 years between 1926 and 1992, but it has moved 200 feet more in the last 20.
The Delaware Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, on which I serve for the LWV of DE, will be issuing an Interim Report soon and holding a series of public engagement sessions in November across the state to inform the public and get feedback.
The Caesar Rodney Institute and its tea party supporters tried this year to get Delaware to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative -- a collaborative effort by 10 Northeastern states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from large power plants.
Fortunately, their effort was defeated in the Delaware House Energy Committee, headed by John Kowalko. The Tea Party also opposes renewable energy, like wind and solar, saying that clean energy costs too much, and will take away jobs.
The truth is that clean renewable energy will bring new jobs and industries to Delaware and help bring us into the modern age. Burning coal -- the major current energy source for electricity - is a 19th Century technology and should go the way of the horse and buggy. The modern world will be based largely on electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power.
Here in Delaware we have an abundant offshore wind resource -- enough to supply about five times the total electricity used in the state.
We have the first Power Purchase Agreement in the U.S, between Blue Water Wind/NRG and Delmarva Power, and are now waiting for the investment needed to put turbines in the water.
I thought Delaware would be first in the U.S., but just got back from an offshore wind conference in Baltimore and saw that several states on the East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes are vying to beat us.
Denmark has had turbines in the water for 20 years, and it gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind; it is planning for 50 percent, so this is not a new and risky technology.
Offshore wind is now expanding rapidly in both Europe and Asia. Senator Carper realizes that the choice is not between environmental protection and a vibrant economy, but between promoting both and destroying both.
We owe him a vote of thanks for looking out for the general welfare rather than for those who profit from old technologies that threaten the health and well being of the rest of us now and for generations to come.