02/22/2013 07:11 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

No Time to Cool Off

Unless you happened to be on a monastic retreat last weekend, you probably know that the Sierra Club,, the Hip Hop Caucus, and other allies held the largest climate-action rally in U.S. history. More than 50,000 people came out to tell President Obama that we want him to lead on climate, starting with a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

It was an incredible day. If you were there with us in Washington, D.C., or any of the simultaneous rallies held around the country, you know what I mean. Thank you for being part of it!

Decades from now, we may well look at 2013 as a turning point in climate action. The groundswell of grassroots activism that we're seeing will keep gathering momentum until it sweeps our nation into a clean energy future.  

You could not see the tens of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall last Sunday without remembering the other great social movements that have found powerful expression there. We've all heard the stirring conclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s extraordinary "I Have a Dream" speech: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" But Dr. King also had words that day for those who agreed that segregation was wrong but worried that change was coming too fast. "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism," he said. "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy."

I hear a similar kind of "gradualism" when well-meaning people say that renewable energy is a worthwhile goal, but we're just not ready to start cutting our ties to fossil fuels. For some folks, change is scary no matter how exciting it might be.

Well, we aren't about to cool off, because the clean-energy future is already happening. Here are just three examples I've learned this week alone:

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced that all of the new electricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. was renewable. Every single megawatt. Now January was a rather extraordinary month, but did you know that more than half of the total electricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. during 2012 was renewable?
  • The Electric Reliability Council of Texas set a new wind-power generation record on February 9: 9,481 megawatts -- nearly 28 percent of system load. As coal-fired power plants close in Texas, wind power is taking their place. Last year, wind supplied more than 9 percent of the power in Texas, and that number will go up this year.
  • A new report from the Michigan Public Service Commission reviewed the effects of the renewable energy standard that the state adopted in 2008. Thanks to more than $1.78 billion in investments, more than 895 megawatts of new renewable energy projects came online in Michigan through 2012. The cost of new renewable energy there is now lower than new combined-cycle natural gas and new coal.
Across the nation, we're showing we can trade dirty fuels for clean energy. Change is happening, and it's up to us to keep that momentum going if we want to save our climate. We're only getting started. Stay tuned for more!