Time for Real Climate Efforts

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Letter to the Editor Nov 21, 2020

By Eric Engle

It’s become a fad of late for government, corporate and industrial entities to promise emissions reductions by the end of the decade and carbon neutrality by mid-century. These goals and commitments, at the very least, offer tacit acknowledgments of the climate crisis we find ourselves in and are a result of pressure by both shareholders and stakeholders. That’s admirable. But we’re not looking for the very least and what’s admirable; we’re looking for concrete action.

FirstEnergy, one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the country, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, has joined the chorus and said it is committing to carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. I appreciate the few details the utility provided to the Associated Press about this commitment when the utility stated that it “plans to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles when replacing trucks in its fleet, including the large aerial vehicles used to repair power lines, building a large solar farm in West Virginia, and use advanced technology to help customers manage their energy use.” Electrifying transport, transitioning to renewable energy and maximizing energy efficiency while minimizing overall use are all critical. But this doesn’t even begin to get you to a 30 percent GHG reduction in 10 years or carbon neutrality by 2050. So what’s your plan? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

I also can’t help but notice the convenience of the timing of this announcement of climate concern. Could this be a PR distraction from a $60 million bribery investigation by the U.S. DOJ, the U.S. SEC, the Ohio Elections Commission and a panel of independent members of the company’s board of directors?

As of Jan. 20, 2021, we’ll finally have a presidential administration in this country with detailed plans and proposals for climate action, with and without Congress. It’s time for corporations, investors, industry, bankers and financiers, insurers, and all state and local governments, including West Virginia and the City of Parkersburg, to follow suit with detailed plans and proposals of their own — provision of undeniable proof of their commitments to climate action in the proverbial pudding.