According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North Carolina has few fossil fuel resources and does not have any oil, natural gas, or coal production. Although our state leads in the use of solar energy and has removed any drilling operations, we still consume almost four times as much energy as we produce. Major agricultural industries such as hog and poultry farms, financial companies, our lead in nuclear energy production and furniture and textile production in addition to the high population are the reasons why our go-green methods aren’t necessarily working. North Carolina may be one of the most efficient states, but consumer and industrial habits up until now have made environmental policies look like temporary relievers instead of preventatives.
Cooper hasn’t received enough credit for his activism regarding renewable energy in this state. Ever since his first term in 2017, Governor Cooper has climate change at the top of his priority list. The previous governor questioned climate change and believed that humans had nothing to do with it, so clearly, Cooper had a lot to work with. He joined 24 other governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance meant to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals. This is a huge step in the right direction as the Trump administration has been known for deregulating many environmental policies, leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and hiring staff known to contribute to global warming.
With the initiation of his executive order, The Clean Energy Plan, Governor Cooper has been making a lot of progress. According to the N.C. Department of Quality, The Clean Energy Plan’s main objectives include: “Reducing electric power sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and attain carbon neutrality by 2050, fostering long-term energy affordability and price stability for North Carolina’s residents and businesses by modernizing regulatory and planning processes, and accelerating clean energy innovation, development, and deployment to create economic opportunities for both rural and urban areas of the state.”
Cooper’s steps in the right direction are not noticed nearly as much as I think they should be. He went to Capitol Hill in 2019 to testify against the government’s anti-environmental actions. I want everyone to understand why it’s so important. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in 2018 stating that the Earth must start dropping CO2 emissions well before 2030 to make sure the planet does not change in temperature by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius. This increase may seem small and ineffective, and yes humans will be able to bear the conditions to some extent, however, The Climate Reality Project explains that natural systems will reach a point of no return. And that we should start focusing on and moving towards renewable energy sources. Cooper has definitely been making decisions catered to this issue that have made drastic results.
North Carolina has been able to drop its GHG levels by 10.2% below 2005 levels in 2018 according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Cooper was able to provide results by using a good portion of the state budget to fund alternative energy research and projects, and at the same time, enforce many regulations regarding the amount of emissions from corporations through his executive order.
Back in September, Cooper and Senator Thom Tillis joined forces convincing President Trump to include North Carolina on a ten year offshore natural gas and oil drilling moratorium that will go into effect in 2022 and will end in 2032. South Carolina, Georgia and Florida were included in this ban. Not only will this save the fisheries and tourism industry in our state, but it will also save a lot of aquatic ecosystems on our coast.
Since May, Governor Cooper has gathered professionals to work on offshore wind energy research and projects, and in October, the News and Observer reported that “North Carolina will join Maryland and Virginia in the ‘Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Transformative Partnership for Offshore Wind Energy Resources,’ which they are calling SMART-POWER for short.” These were the same winds that powered the aircraft made by the Wright brothers and these winds are even stronger today. According to the Department of Energy, “offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 2,000 GW of capacity per year, nearly double the nation’s current electricity use. Even if only 1% of that potential is captured, nearly 6.5 million homes could be powered by offshore wind energy within the next decade.” That could power a large majority of the state and have benefits such as weaning off of nuclear energy and having a reduction of nuclear waste that can harm the environment.
The understanding that our governor has about future generations and the economy in regards to climate change compared to more than half the republicans in congress really worries me. It’s obvious that the longer we wait on trying to protect the environment, the more damage will be done, meaning that when these old men leave office, the weight of the damage will be heavier on our shoulders. Cooper’s efforts are advantageous for the next generations. And with the work he has been doing over the past two to three years, I am beyond doubt that the Clean Energy Plan will fail or do our state harm.