Opinion: Scandinavia sets energy example
Bernie Sanders often refers to Scandinavia as an example for America. He talks about education, he talks about jobs, in countries whose first priority is to take care of their people.
Let’s take a look at one aspect of life in Scandinavia: the development of clean energy.
According to the European Wind Energy Association, “As of 30 June 2015, there are 3,072 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of 10,393.6 MW fully grid connected in European waters in 82 wind farms across 11 countries.” Yes, in European waters, over 3,000 wind turbines now provide electricity to 24 countries connected to a modern grid. In American waters, including the Great Lakes, zero offshore wind turbines provide electricity to our antiquated grid.
Denmark produced the first commercial wind turbine in the world in 1979. Little Denmark teamed up with giant China during the 1980s to develop university programs in clean energy technology, and factories to build wind turbines. Danish wind turbines built in the 1980s in China are still producing power today.
The Norwegian oil company Statoil has teamed up with Scotland to build the world’s first array of floating offshore wind turbines in the sea northeast of Scotland. The Norwegian hydropower company Statkraft, which for a century has provided clean electricity to Norwegian farms and towns and industries, has recently launched a new global endeavor: Statkraft now works with countries around the world to help them develop clean energy from both the wind and the sun.
Sweden is one of three countries in the world (along with Scotland and Costa Rica) determined to be the firstnation to power itself with 100 percent clean energy.
Such progress in the clean energy industry requires innovative programs in the schools, preparing students for jobs — and lifelong careers — in the 21st century.
Following 10 years of teaching above the Arctic Circle in Norway, and a stretch of time in the Adirondacks of New York taking care of elderly family, I have recently moved to Ripton. I listen to the debate about wind turbines on the mountain ridges, and about solar panels ruining the idyllic landscape of Vermont. And I wonder again and again why Americans are so absolutely adamant in NOT learning from other countries in the world.
A Danish grandmother would tell us that obviously offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario could power all of Pennsylvania, New York and New England. No need for wind turbines in the Green Mountains. She would tell us that we must think beyond our little borders: We must look to the wind itself, sweeping from west to east along the length of Lake Ontario, for 21st-century answers.
On the north shore of Lake Ontario, the offshore wind turbine industry is booming in Toronto, providing a growing numbers of jobs, vibrant schools and clean energy. On the south shore of the same lake, with the same winds, the same weather, Americans are still hoping that the next president and Congress will somehow fix everything.
Every time I travel from Norway to the United States, I feel as if I drop back 30 years. I leave behind a country where people are quietly and steadily working with each other, to a country where everyone is bickering … and shooting at each other. As a teacher, I move from a Norwegian classroom where the students are highly motivated … to classrooms where the kids are bored, angry, frustrated and dropping out.
In 1776, America was the most innovative nation in the world. We invented a new system of government, based on a radical concept called “democracy.” We nurtured a new system of economics, which gave almost everyone a fair chance at prosperity. We opened schools, we opened libraries. We welcomed a broad range of churches. We believed in ourselves, and we believed in future generations: Gen. Washington called them “the unborn millions.”
Yes, America was once the most innovative nation in the world. We need to do it again. While we are cheering for Bernie until Election Day in November 2016, we also need to bring our schools into the 21st century. We need to meet with people from Cleveland to Toronto to Middlebury to Montreal, so that we, together, can team up with the wind.
Bernie will tell you again and again that one man in the White House cannot do it all alone. A nation of people, who are citizens of the world, can do what Congress has refused to do for the past 35 years.
We do not need to wait another year until we cast our vote. We can begin now, by beating our American swords into the blades of wind turbines.
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