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Readers write – Asking the great questions – June 12, 2017

Asking the great questions

President Trump’s declaration to opt out of the Paris Climate Agreement has raised great concern.

He claims that environmental regulations cause job losses and that regulations are the reason for the sluggish economy. I am just reading David Rothkopf’s little book “The Great Questions of Tomorrow.” He starts by reviewing big changes in the past and what influenced those changes. He has inspired me to ask what questions need to be asked and answered with facts?

Were the same environmental regulations in force during the previous administration when 15 million jobs were created? What are the main causes for job losses in different segments of our economy? I have read that the greatest cause of loss of jobs in the coal industry has been automation. What I read stated that huge earth-moving machines have taken the place of thousands of miners. Is automation the primary job killer in other areas or has it been immigration? You can do more harm trying to solve a problem if you don’t know the answer to the important questions of the day.

I have heard that one reason given by those who support our opting out of the climate accord is that what we do will have little effect because China and India have emerging economies that will cause them to burn more fossil fuels, especially coal. That was certainly true five years ago. Is it true today? I have read that China’s CO2 emissions have declined in each of the last four years. India vows to have 100 percent of its vehicles totally electric within 13 years. Both accelerating their development of alternative sources of energy.

I have heard that adopting alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuel sources would hurt the economy and cause job losses because of the cost differential. Is that true today? In Texas, Austin Energy signed a deal this spring for 20 years of output from a solar farm at less than 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. That price does have government subsidies behind it, but recent analyses show that even without those subsidies, alternative energies can often compete with traditional sources. There are reports across the world that new wind and/or solar power plants are typically cheaper to build than new coal, natural gas or nuclear power plants, even without governmental support. In oil country Texas, the community of Georgetown has gone 100 percent renewable energy. The Georgetown folks say they did it for economic reasons, not politics. The banking firm Lazard’s analysis found that without subsidies, solar costs about 7.2 cents a kilowatt-hour at the low end, with wind at 3.7 cents. The average price of a KWH of electricity in the US is 12 cents.

Should we stay in the Paris Climate Agreement? I am now hearing that governors, mayors of many cities, and many corporations plan to maintain and/or exceed the guidelines of the Paris Agreement. Analysts estimate that even with all of Trump’s negative efforts, the U.S. most likely will meet our commitment to the rest of the world. Why did he pull us out?

Jesse Parete, Celina