The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 1:00 am

The moral choice

Transition to clean energy in line with Scripture's reverence for life

Michael Bowling and Kyle Meyaard-Schaap

Evangelicals are known for passionate convictions – our commitment to the authority of Scripture, our defense of the sanctity of life and our eagerness to share the good news of the Gospel are all well-known.

Building a clean energy economy is the pro-life conviction you've probably never heard of, but make no mistake: Our commitment to a healthy environment is as unwavering as our faith.

That's why more than 20,000 pro-life Hoosiers have already signed a petition calling on members of the Indiana General Assembly and the governor to transition Indiana to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030. Those signatures will be delivered to the Statehouse at an event April 3; all are welcome to attend. 

For years, pro-life Christians have opposed harmful pollution from fossil fuel infrastructure because it threatens human health, especially the health of vulnerable populations (children, the elderly, those with chronic illness) and the unborn.

America's most popular fossil fuel source is natural gas. The process of extracting natural gas (methane) includes significant leakage, venting and flaring of excess gas. This in turn leads to harmful pollutants such as benzene and smog precursors being released into our communities.

Medical studies have shown that these pollutants have a disproportionate effect on life in the womb. For pregnant women living near natural gas production sites, these emissions have been linked to birth defects, pre-term births and low-birthweight babies. In turn, these babies are at an increased risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma and other adverse health outcomes.

What's more, methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas. It is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year timeframe. With climate change already affecting our neighbors from Paradise, California, to Houston – and with predictions of hotter, drier growing seasons to come right here in Indiana – evangelicals are recognizing more and more that we cannot be faithful to Christ's command to love our neighbor if we do nothing about greenhouse gas pollution.

That's why tens of thousands of evangelical Hoosiers are standing up and calling for a different future for Indiana – a future that may already be on its way.

Last year, Indiana saw more coal-fired capacity go offline than any other year, while more solar capacity was added than ever before. Renewable energy employs five times more Hoosiers than fossil fuels, and building new renewable resources in Indiana is already cheaper than keeping existing coal-fired assets alive. All of this has happened with little to no help from Indianapolis, where legislators have not picked up a meaningful energy bill in years, except the one in 2017 that weakened residential solar incentives.

These changes currently remaking the Indiana energy landscape are creating jobs, decreasing pollution and are almost entirely market-driven. Imagine how much health and prosperity could be unlocked if the Statehouse played an active, supporting role in accelerating this transformation.

If 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030 is too heavy a lift for our legislators, there is no shortage of other measures to be taken. Indiana remains without a state energy plan, a basic roadmap that could help maximize the economic benefits of the clean-energy transition already under way in our state. Indiana's clean-energy portfolio standard currently stands at 10 percent by 2025, one of the weakest goals in the country. What's more, it's entirely voluntary, making it little more than symbolic window dressing. This is all low-hanging fruit that the governor and legislature would do well to pick.

If they do, evangelical Hoosiers will be cheering them on, for the Scriptures that we love are clear about God's call to us to protect the world he loves and to show our neighbors the same care and concern we show for ourselves. The gift of life we revere is protected when we have clean air to breathe and pure water free from fossil-fuel pollution. The Gospels' shout of good news for all creation is amplified by actions whose results are good for mothers, the poor and the unborn.

Overwhelming evangelical support for strong pollution standards may be surprising to some, but it isn't to us. It is a natural extension of the values we hold most dear.

This story has been corrected.

Pastor Michael Bowling, left, is the senior pastor of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis. The Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap is director of outreach for the Evangelical Environmental Network and the national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.

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