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Wild Weather Extremes Demand Pragmatic Policies That Work Today and Tomorrow

    Firefighters fighting a wildfireThe summer of 2022 has gone out with a bang. Wildfires are exploding and record-breaking heatwaves are broiling California and other parts of the West while flooding rains soak the Southeast to the Northeast. The power and perils of extreme weather have been on full display, with much of it linked to climate change.

    Federal and state governments have been accelerating policies aimed to limit greenhouse gases and slow warming from climate change. President Biden’s investments in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure as well as California’s inclusion of a future ban on the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles in 2035 are two recent examples. In each case, meaningful emissions impacts from these decisions won’t be felt for decades at best.

    This begs the question of whether enough attention is being given to implementing pragmatic policies that will make cities and communities more resilient and able to respond to these extreme weather events. Having the right tools and resources in place makes all the difference. When trouble happens and life safety is at stake, whether from electric power blackouts or flooding conditions, people rightly turn to reliable and proven response strategies to protect public health and safety, and future policy takes a back seat.

    With California’s electrical grid teetering on the edge of blackouts beginning this past weekend, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order meant to reduce strain from the grid by waiving requirements for ocean going vessels to plug into shore power and for businesses and other institutions to activate their backup generators, many of which are powered by diesel. Will these measures increase short-term emissions? Maybe, but weighing the alternatives – record heat impacting elderly and vulnerable communities if widespread blackouts shut down air conditioning– makes the decision an easy one. Keep the power on and respond to the crisis now.

    In November 2021, the State of Washington faced historic flooding, caused by excessive rain fall and snow melt. During this flood, a young couple and their pets were rescued from their home, surrounded by fast moving water, by a brave volunteer operating a large construction machine – a wheel loader. Even though water nearly covered this machine’s 42-inch tires it powered through the flowing water bringing people and their pets to safety in its large bucket held high above the rushing water. It was a stunning display of the sheer power, versatility, and usefulness of these machines that are powered by diesel.

    Much is being said about emerging technologies that will compete with diesel. Some of these someday may offer scalable advantages over diesel – some, someday. Today, diesel is not an inconvenient technology we are forced to use until something better comes along, it is a proven, efficient and reliable life-saving technology we are fortunate to have. Let’s embrace the best in all technologies. You never know when you’re going to be the one calling for help.

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