BY ON April 26, 2011

This piece was cross posted on Writes Like She Talks.

A week ago, I appeared on the local weekly television roundtable, Feagler & Friends. It unpacks local and national issues as they affect us in Northeast Ohio.  (You can see the show here.)

Ohio flag graphicOne of the topics we tackled revolved around an energy company’s effort to get consumers to switch to compact fluorescent lighting or CFLs.  But the question wasn’t related to the resistance we’re hearing about in regard to their use generally speaking.  Rather, the concern we discussed was whether the mercury in the CFLs proposed enough of a risk, if and when the bulbs break or must be disposed, to outweigh their benefit.

As I wrote here before the show, the answer is an unequivocal no: the risk does not outweigh the benefit and there are safe, orderly ways to manage disposal and breakage.  Again, you can go here to learn all about them. Furthermore, the Environmental Defense Fund has specifically noted that the use of CFLs reduces our reliance on and therefore the mercury-laden, polluting output of coal-fired power plants.

Sadly, even with this corporate effort at changing our electricity consumption habits, the state of Ohio came in dead, pun intended, last in this week’s Earth Day ranking of the Top 10 Most and Top 10 Least Green States. Skip the drum roll, read and weep:


> Population:11,542,645 (7th)
> GDP: $471.2 Billion (8th)
> Toxic Waste: 1.3 Million Tons (45th)
> Carbon Footprint:267 Million Metric Tons (47th)
> Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied for Last)

Ohio ranks fifth in energy consumption, and very little of this demand is met by alternative energy. Only 0.7% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, the worst rate in the country. Most of the state’s energy comes from coal. Along with this tendency comes a long and poor record of pollution.  The state ranks 47th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 46th for toxic exposure, 47th for developmental toxins released, and 47th for reproductive toxins released.  Additionally, the state ranks second worst, just behind Florida, for hazardous waste violations since 2000, as reported by the nonprofit group OMB Watch.  Ohio may not rank dead last in an extreme number of subcategories, however its overall extremely poor showing causes it to be ranked as the least environmentally friendly state on our list.

I feel physically ill just reading that synopsis.

[For those who instantly want to find a way to discredit the ranking, here’s the down low on who did it and how it was done.]

So what? What’s it all actually mean?

Pollution is as much a state problem as a national one. Ohio contributes much more to regional and global pollution than Vermont, which ranks well. Unlike Ohio, Vermont does not have to regulate hundreds of factories, which pollute the water and air. Similarly, Ohio does not have great tracts of land where it can install vast numbers of wind farms. Texas, which ranks first in wind energy, does.  Texas, however, has the largest number of coal-fired power plants.  As a result, the state burns more coal and produces more carbon dioxide than any other state. No two states have the same problems. This means that solutions must be informed by both local and national concerns.

And yet, literally, within 24 hours of this depressing news about Ohio and energy,  former Ohio Secretary of State and current potential Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate, Ken Blackwell, published a column called, “EPA’s Train Wreck Could Leave Ohio in the Dark.”

What on earth could be declared an EPA-driven train wreck in Ohio, given the state’s last place status when it comes to how not green it is?

Even with 14 million Americans out of work and an economy still searching for light at the end of the tunnel, the EPA is poised to enact a series of back-door mandates that will stifle economic growth. And with the speed that this runaway train is traveling, Ohioans should be scared of the “Train Wreck” headed towards a town near you.

Unfortunately, everyday Americans may not realize the impact of the EPA’s “Train Wreck” of new regulations on jobs, the economy and price of essential energy until it’s too late. The truth is, even the EPA itself doesn’t quite know what these regulations might cost to implement — although various outside analysts seem to agree that, at minimum, the 10 major rules that the EPA issued in 2010 could cost the economy at least $23 billion and nearly one million jobs.

Yo! What’s the frequency, Kenneth?  Because on the same day you published your diatribe, business leaders declared that clean air standards are good for our economy:

“As investors we prefer long-term certainty on energy and climate policy to be able to predict investment risks and opportunities,” said Stu Dalheim, director of shareholder advocacy at Calvert Investment Management, Inc. “National regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will not only allow America to compete globally with other advanced nations whose regulations do place a premium on low- or zero-emissions technologies, but will also benefit consumers and workers, create jobs, and help investors seize new economic opportunities in clean technology and other climate change solutions.”

Clean Air Act standards expected to be put in place this year will trigger nearly $200 billion in capital investmentsin the power sector over the next five years and create nearly 1.5 million jobs, according to a report published recently by Ceres and the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute.  A recent EPA analysis “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020:  Final Report,” found that benefits exceed costs by a factor of more than 30:1.  In 2010 alone, clean air amendments generated environmental and health benefits of nearly $1.3 trillion.

It’s very very sad that a former elected official who was in such a high office and is expressing a desire to pursue yet another high office for Ohio will fail to do his homework in an attempt (and failure) to achieve cheap political points that feed off the job creation fears in Ohio – legitimate ones to be sure, but also ones that are not fed or darkened because of the EPA’s commitment to Clean Air.

Something’s in the air, alright, and the last person who should be mucking it up is someone who may be seeking elected office.

Set the record straight, Ken Blackwell, and write another column that accurately states just how much the Clean Air Act contributes to our economy – especially given the opportunities it has to do so in our state of Ohio.

TOPICS: Economics, Politics, Pollution