On Tuesday, June 21, California residents received both good and bad news about our environment. First, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the state’s largest energy utilities, agreed to close its last operating nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon within the next decade and to develop more solar, wind and other clean-power technologies. Second, climate researchers said it could take California four years to recover from the worst drought on record, even if the state sees several winters with above-average snowfall. It’s quite a feat to both breathe a sigh of relief and feel concern in one breath.
As for the good news, shutting down the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant while promising to develop cleaner energy technology speaks volumes about the risks that nuclear energy actually poses to the environment. The nuclear industry has declared that in order to cut carbon emissions and to combat climate change, nuclear energy is a must. But PG&E’s move makes a bold statement, that nuclear energy isn’t a must and that we can actually move from potentially and proven-to-be-harmful sources of energy to clean, sustainable sources. It’s as if PG&E has cut its losses, given that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had cited the plant in 2014 for 29 violations that could have resulted in dire consequences had something gone awry, and has perhaps had some profound realization that continuing with nuclear power isn’t worth the risk. An article in The Guardian, “Nuclear power plant accidents: listed and ranked since 1952,” cites 33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power stations. Perhaps PG&E felt it avoided certain disaster. While we have some concerns over how the shutdown and careful disposal of such dangerous materials will occur, we feel confident that PG&E is headed in the right direction for everyone.
With the second bit of daunting news, that California may have a long road ahead to becoming H2O-plush again, or rather just stable with our water resources, PG&E’s news couldn’t have come at a better time. So while environmental advocates demand action now, to be practical, change takes time, especially for a company responsible for providing power to approximately 16 million people. But change on an individual level isn’t all that hard and doesn’t take as much time. In fact, water conservation is relatively easy if the individual grasps that a little change collectively among millions can make a huge impact on sustaining a good quality of life for all. Given our persistent drought situation, now is not the time to revert back to our old ways. And if we demand that the top energy companies make big changes, then we too must be accountable and make proper adjustments to our lifestyles.
As we move forward through the summer, which climate forecasters have only promised will bring record-setting temperatures, we must do our due diligence in looking for ways we can adjust our energy needs and water consumption habits. In the end, placing blame on the supposed big bad energy companies is only providing us a scapegoat so that we can continue with our own bad habits.