The climate damage of fossil fuels has been widely known since at least the 1980s, and as an Inletkeeper, you don’t need reminding how hazardous its infrastructure is for our watershed. Still, in the past it’s been creditable to say that with cheap, abundant natural gas, and with renewable energy technologies just not ready to carry the load, we’ve had no reasonable alternative. Now natural gas prices continue to shoot up while technologies like solar have matured and are ripe to enter competition. If technology and economics were the only factors, a new energy system would be not just possible, but inevitable.
Climate, however, is more than a technological or economic problem. It’s also social and political, and here, too, is opportunity. In the 1950s, for-profit utilities couldn’t make money from bringing electricity to Alaskans, so Alaskans — as many rural Americans had before — formed energy co-ops to do it themselves. Today, while most Americans remain customers of investor-owned utilities with little say in their energy future, around 40% of them, including we in the Cook Inlet watershed, are member-owners of democratic co-ops. And even by the standards of Lower 48 co-ops, Alaskans have an extraordinary say in how our energy is produced. The smallness and isolation of the Railbelt co-ops have financial downsides, but they also allow our co-ops to make relatively independent decisions and for individual members to play a large role in those decisions. Those who care about climate, affordability, or both don’t have to merely hope for improvement. We can vote for directors who commit to making it happen and through public process, we can hold our boards accountable to building an equitable, responsible renewable energy future.
Inletkeeper is investing in finding and supporting candidates who create a just, decarbonized energy system in the co-ops that serve the watershed. Ben Boettger, our new energy organizer, is focused on just this. Covering energy as a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion from 2014-2018, he learned how decisions are made in Alaska’s energy system, as well as the stakes of those decisions. We are grateful and excited to be welcoming Ben to our team.
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned citizens like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.