EPPN Creation Care Series: Renewable Energy
Decades of scientific research has demonstrated that humans have a direct effect on the Earth’s climate. Climate change is driven in large part by changes in human behavior over the last centuries related to carbon emissions and agricultural practices. This change is due, in no small part, to human reliance on fossil fuels, deforestation, and our failure to implement alternative forms of producing and distributing energy. For so long, the answer to climate change has been made to seem clear and simple: we switch our energy systems to renewable energy now to prevent extreme weather from getting worse.
Throughout this series, we have discussed steps that could be taken to improve our stewardship of God’s creation for future generations while also considering the tradeoffs any policy decision requires. These have included the implementation of a carbon tax, offering assistance to impacted communities when shifting away from fossil fuels, and improving government infrastructure and energy efficiency. These are all steps to a greater goal, which has existed since the very first environmental and social challenges of fossil fuels and climate change: a shift to renewable energy.
The support of the federal government will be essential if we hope to transition to renewable energy, just as it was to the development of our dependence on carbon-based fuels. Ambitious policy is needed in order to support the transition away from fossil fuels and to facilitate the introduction of renewable energy. An eventual goal of attaining 100% renewable energy is ideal, and it is very important that we keep that lofty goal in our sights. In order to answer our call to care for creation, however, we have the responsibility to strategically pursue our goals through a complete and informed process.
Each form of renewable energy has drawbacks such as extensive land use, impact of manufacturing, location requirements, or habitat destruction. On a larger scale, the global community of nations must consider and plan for the stability and security of nations that are almost entirely dependent on the sale of oil and gas.
In 2009, The Episcopal Church called on the U.S. federal government to begin the transition to renewable energy by creating a renewable energy standard that is designed to increase renewable energy minimums over time. In this call, the Church recognized the need for the renewable energy industry to be granted equitable subsidies so that their infrastructure and startup costs could be even with those in fossil fuel industries.
A carbon pricing tool is partially intended to account for the full societal costs of carbon emissions. Similarly, public support for renewable energy accounts for the vast public benefits and interest in this transition. Due to its necessity and cost, renewable energy needs prompt federal government support beyond what is currently offered. The Episcopal Church is working toward a future of renewable energy as a both socially and environmentally sustainable source of energy, and we support the government’s ambitious investment in this technology and auxiliary systems such as batteries and a more efficient electric grid. Previous generations of Americans invested in coal and oil, in rural electricity, and other pieces of the technology we take for granted today. We must invest in the systems and technologies to provide for future generations.
Q. What are we by nature?
A. We are part of God’s creation, made in the image of God.
Q. What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
A. It means that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.
Q. Why then do we live apart from God and out of harmony with creation?
A. From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices.
The Book of Common Prayer, The Catechism, Human Nature, pg. 845
The Episcopal Church, through the Catechism, teaches in its first two questions that “we are part of God’s creation,” and that unique to those made in God’s image is the freedom to create, to reason, and to choose if we are to live in harmony with creation and God. The third question teaches us that the misuse of freedom and our God-given abilities leads us to live out of harmony with God and creation.
How can we use our unique freedom to reason and create to live in better harmony with creation?
Previous generations utilized fossil fuel resources to help untold millions avoid hunger, cold, and to create modern technology and medicine. How do we, with a new understanding of fossil fuels’ impact on the climate, grapple with previous generations' and our own use of these fuels?
How might our reason and our ability to choose provide a way for us to continue providing for a healthy economy and flourishing culture today and protect the interest of future generations?