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Palo Alto’s carbon-free program eliminates harmful emissions

Written by: Rebecca Alger

In the wake of recent natural disasters and extreme weather, the Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to approve a 100 percent carbon-free electric portfolio on March 4. The plan is incredibly important because it has the capacity to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 100,000 metric tons per year. According to the city council, Palo Alto’s carbon-neutral electric-supply portfolio will demonstrate annual net-zero GHG emissions. By establishing a program that relies solely on the city’s existing renewable-energy sources in the place of standard, fossil-fueled energy, Palo Alto becomes a leading force in the push for American cities to get rid of carbon from their electrical operations.

Global warming brought about by carbon emissions led to the melting of polar ice caps, which hold the very small amount of fresh water available on Earth, provide a natural habitat for various species of plants and animals and reflect heat and sunlight back into space, thus regulating the temperature on Earth.  If humans neglect to alter their habits and make significant changes in how they create energy, the destruction of the environment on all spectrums will continue.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions comes from the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity. In 2009, electricity accounted for 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. If the human race continues to impact Earth at the current rate, the average temperature, sea level, acidity of the oceans and amount of precipitation will steadily increase. It is necessary to make long-term changes as soon as possible in order to make a positive lasting impact on the environment. Palo Alto would greatly reduce its impact with the carbon neutral portfolio.

According to City Manager James Keene, because the City of Palo Alto already possesses its own utilities, residents will not need to pay more for electricity than those in areas charged by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The average cost increase will only be between $2.60 and $4.20 more per month according to Carbon-Free Palo Alto, a grassroots citizen-activism organization. Last year, the Utilities Department issued a survey asking residents if they would be willing to pay more for renewable energy. 73 percent of the 948 respondents said they were willing to pay anywhere from $2 to $10 per month, or even more, proving that the change in pricing resulting from carbon-free electricity would not be a problem for citizens who would be directly impacted.

Carbon dioxide is killing people and making it harder for people to breathe each and every year, and it certainly is not happening slowly. Through carbon-neutrality, Palo Alto reduces the effects carbon dioxide has on health. By lowering air pollution, the new portfolio is making the serious changes necessary to save lives all over the world.

Palo Alto’s program for a carbon-free electric system will be able to make serious changes not only in the immediate area but also all over the world. The changes being made currently will benefit the planet both now and in the long run.

In the past seven years alone, Palo Alto brought its GHG emissions down through local renewable energy sources. As other cities and counties follow Palo Alto’s lead and amend their current supplies of electricity, the world becomes a healthier place for all.

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