Thursday, February 14, 2013

Green-energy work and plans have failed to reflect concerns of rural communities, rural advocate says

President Obama's remarks on green energy during his State of the Union address this week left out a crucial component, rural communities, Jim Kleinschmit writes for the Daily Yonder. Lawmakers will have to do a better job of appealing to rural residents if they want green energy initiatives to take hold, wrote Kleinschmit, director of the Rural Communities Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

"Due to the structure of our legislative system, representatives from rural America -- and their constituents -- have played a disproportionate role in derailing federal climate action of the last several years," Kleinschmit said. "Rural resistance is due, in large part, to the complete neglect of this constituency by U.S. climate policymakers and activists, which allowed climate issues in rural America to be defined primarily by the fossil-fuel industry and its surrogates."

Kleinschmit notes that rising costs from changes in energy policy will affect the prices of fossil fuel products farmers rely upon like fuel, pesticides, propane, fertilizers, so it's not surprising that they often resist change. "Understanding rural communities' concerns and interests around climate change and climate policy is the essential starting point," he writes. "In general, their views are based upon their economic and social realities, which differ in some key ways from their urban counterparts, particularly around the issues of wages and energy costs."

Kleinschmit also places the blame for rural resistance to new energy policies on "climate change deniers" and an emphasis on financial hardship that new regulations and taxes would have on rural communities. He says that there is a need for an emphasis on "opportunities" instead.

Kleinschmit thinks rural resistance is not inevitable, but change must take place in more ways that benefit rural communities. He says rural communities haven't gotten their share of the jobs promised by green energy, even of green industries that take place in rural communities like wind or solar,which have largely gone to large corporations and "bypassed the local communities where these facilities are located."

Some of Kleinschmit's recommendations for getting more rural citizens behind new energy policies include engaging them "'where they are in climate science and climate policy," spreading the word about agricultural and forestry practices that are "climate-friendly," encouraging investment in rural economic development and listening to "the growing cadre of rural leaders who understand the need and value of effective climate policy." (Read more)

No comments: