Grand Rapids aims for 100% green power

According to the most recent data, slightly more than 13% of the world's energy comes from renewable energy sources. In the US, that number is only 7%.

Because so much of America’s energy comes from nonrenewable sources - which will not only run out at some point but also cause pollution - it is critical that the US become more reliant on renewable sources of energy, rather than fossil fuels.

Yet, attempts to set our nation as a whole on a path toward energy independence have thus far failed. This means it is up to state and local governments to lead the way. And leading the way is exactly what Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids, Michigan, wants his city of nearly 200,000 residents to do.

Mayor Heartwell has set the bar high when it comes to making his city run on renewable sources of energy.

In his 2005 State of the City Address, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell pledged to reduce by 20 percent the city's dependence on pollution-producing non-renewable energy sources. At that time, the city consumed 125 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

By the end of November, Grand Rapids will achieve that aggressive goal one year ahead of schedule.

This is great news, no doubt. Anything GR can do to lead the way toward curbing our nation’s dependence on foreign, nonrenewable fuels is a step in the right direction. But why stop now? As the mayor asks:

"Why shouldn't the [green energy] goal for the second largest city in Michigan be 100 percent?"

A study is being commissioned to determine the cost of making GR run solely on renewables. Yet despite the likely costs of switching from fossil fuels to alternative fuels, data shows that such a switch would carry with it numerous economic benefits, among them hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues. This would no doubt offer a boost to Grand Rapids and other communities across Michigan and the nation which could use some help right now.

"If we could begin to attract [clean energy] industry or grow our own industries, that means jobs for our people and wealth for our entrepreneurs," Mayor Heartwell says. "We're running to catch up with half of the United States who have already set renewable energy portfolios."

What impact would be seen if Grand Rapids achieves this goal? On paper, very little, However, Grand Rapids's leadership on this issue will hopefully inspire other communities to take action where the feds thus far have not.

The use of alternative energy technologies would mean a healthier economy, healthier air, and less dependence on fuel sources that won't last forever. Why the federal government has been slow to act is unclear. What is clear is that, for the sake of our society and our planet, we must wean our country off nonrenewable energy sources ASAP.

Kudos to Mayor Heartwell and others who are doing their part and leading the way at the local and state levels.

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