Sierra Club kicks off renewable energy campaign

Apr 17, 2013

A statewide campaign is underway to urge Governor Cuomo to create jobs and grow the economy with renewable energy.

With windmills spinning at the former Bethlehem Steel plant as a backdrop, members of nearly a dozen environmental groups and community organizations helped launch the Sierra Club's "Let's Turn, Not Burn" campaign at the Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo Tuesday.

Cornell University Professor Robert Howarth says he and several other climate change scientists are alarmed by the rate of global warming.

"The Earth has warmed seven-tenths of a degree Celsius over the last few decades and we're on track to be one-and-a-half to two degrees warmer within the next 15 to 35 years unless society starts to do something differently," Howarth says.

Howarth says controlling methane and carbon dioxide can be done with technologies available today like wind and solar. He says the program is cost-competitive once the healthcare costs of burning fossil fuels are factored in.

Linda Schneekloth, Chair of the Sierra Club's Niagara Group, says the governor can take administrative action to level the playing field between fossil fuels and renewables. Schneekloth says a four-year-old "feed and tarriff" program in Ontario is proving successful.

"They've created 20,000 jobs and attracted $20 billion of investment. Over half of them are small farmers and individuals who will become energy producers [and] therefore will get the benefits. When that happens, people's opposition to things like windmills disappears pretty quickly because they're actually getting the economic benefit," Schneekloth says.  

A recent study co authored by Howarth shows switching to renewable energy in New York State over next 15 to 25-years would create 4.5 million construction jobs.