Ohio slashes standards protecting renewable energy, worrying some experts

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Provided via Ohio Department of Development)

The Ohio House of Representatives voted last month to slash standards protecting renewable energy, spurring concern from local climate change experts.

In order to pass House Bill 114, the Ohio House of Representatives asserted renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, no longer needed the assistance of the government to support the industries.

“This will undoubtedly slow the growth of renewables in Ohio and make it harder for renewable energy sources to compete with traditional, ecologically hazardous energy sources,” Sarah Pinter, the 2016-17 Student Senate environmental affairs commissioner, said.

H.B. 114 makes all former mandates voluntary after the law was created nine years ago to protect renewable energy production. In 2026, the renewable energy goals will be erased from law altogether.

The 65-29 vote included three Republicans joining Democrats to oppose the bill.

“I am sad and disappointed, but ultimately unsurprised,” Pinter said. “The Republican Party is determined to destroy progress toward sustainability to keep the pockets of the billionaires that run the fossil fuel industry lined.”

Geoffrey Buckley, a geography professor, attributes the passage of the bill to monetary motivation.

“Those (representatives) are getting money from fossil fuel industries,” he said. “It’s a last-minute money grab, and a lot of these representatives are simply doing work for these corporations that have funded them.”

Ryan Fogt, an associate professor of meteorology, said he is worried about how H.B. 114 will affect the solar industry. Solar is more beneficial than many other energy sources, Fogt said.

“Solar has been the biggest growth in renewable energy,” he said. “For every job in coal, there are three jobs in solar. It’s been an area of boom.”

Fogt said renewable energy sources are at a significant risk from the bill because it will create more of a “burden.”

Buckley argued that, in order to be competitive, Ohio needs to invest in new sources of energy.

“From an economic standpoint, it’s the future compared to the coal industry,” Buckley said. “If we want to be a player in the future and continue to attract people to the state and have good-paying jobs, the energy isn’t going to be with fossil fuels.”

If the state government continues to cut incentives for renewable energy, Pinter said the state and, ultimately, the world will suffer.

“I am worried about the future of the planet,” Pinter said. “We cannot afford to cut back on renewables in the face of climate change. It could cost lives.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on April 24, 2017.

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