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Rising water, strange bedfellows 

Introducing the Green Tea Coalition

In spite of a few embarrassing skirmishes over the years, Savannah enjoys a rather stellar national reputation.

Hardly a week goes by without our beloved Forsyth fountain appearing in one of those fancy travel magazine round-ups that tout Savannah as one of America's Most Romantic Cities or a Top 10 Pet-Friendly Destination and a Favorite Bastion of Sultry Seduction. (OK, I made the last one up but shouldn't someone put that on Pinterest already?)

I've heard Savannah's charms compared to that of Miami, Los Angeles and Manhattan, and other than not being able to find any decent dim sum around here, that's a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur.

Unfortunately, our dear Hostess City has the dubious honor of being included with America's other coastal jewels on another, more ominous list: A recent inventory of "U.S. Cities That Could Disappear Over the Next Century," due to rising seas and rampant climate change.

Current projections put water levels rising two to five feet in the next 100 years, and unless your offspring are ruling the world from the penthouse at Drayton Towers, the rest of our grandkids will be swimming to school.

I KNOW. Science can be so depressing! While evidence mounts that we may be past the point of no return, many optimists believe that we can at least slow down the imminent destruction of the planet.

Some countries like Finland and Germany have reduced their reliance on filthy fossil fuels and have increased aggressive research on how to make renewable energy sources like wind and solar cheaper. Even China has dialed back its coal-spewing, employing cleaner practices that by 2030 will become as ubiquitous as, well, dim sum.

The U.S., however, remains deeeeeeply in denial, still dicking around over the actuality of climate change while the water laps at our toes. Though former vice president and futurist Al Gore recently waxed positive over an under-the-radar political shift that's finally leaning into sustainable energy, Congress still subsidizes the oil, gas and coal industries to the tune of $500 billion a year — as certain conservatives snivel over the comparatively paltry $50 billion allotted for renewables research.

Total insanity, considering the International Energy Agency forecasts that global renewables production will increase 40 percent by 2018. Not only might we prevent disaster, there's money to be made, people!

Yet to melt the stubborn glacier of American energy policy, something drastic needs to happen. Some kind of miraculous meeting of the minds that transcends partisan political boundaries.

Something completely outrageous, like, say, green energy liberals aligning with staunch Tea Party activists.

And whaddya know? Climate change must be real, 'cause Hell just froze over.

Forged last month in Atlanta, the Green Tea Coalition combines the forces of environmental leaders and extreme rightwingers around one single issue: Advocating for less pampering for fossil fuels and more money for solar power and other renewable energy sources.

"This isn't about compromise. We agree on the issue," says Tea Party Patriots national coordinator and coalition founder Debbie Dooley.

At the heart of this unholy alliance is a challenge to Georgia Power and its parent Southern Company on its energy monopoly — one that raises prices for ratepayers capturing solar power and selling it back to the grid.

Also odious is the expansion of Plant Vogtle, which Georgians are currently paying for years in advance of any actual return. With two more reactors, the Augusta-area nuclear plant will not only create twice the toxic waste, but also siphon 80 million gallons of water a day from the Savannah River — a dastardly prospect should anything go wrong with the impending harbor deepening at the other end. Our end.

Though all involved have been accused of "consorting with the enemy," Dooley reminds that Tea Partiers and liberals have collaborated before on charter school issues and to defeat last year's TSPLOST initiative.

"There is plenty of common ground," she points out. "We're for a free market. We're for competition. Why shouldn't all energy compete in the marketplace without any subsidies at all?"

This is a definite split from the Tea Party line touted by Americans for Prosperity and the evil Koch Brothers, who probably have vacation homes made of diamond-encrusted coal tailings. But a growing number of Tea Party folks are disgruntled with the Kochs' scare propaganda against solar and have found sweeter tea and sympathy with those already pushing for a decentralized power grid.

Their motivations might be economic rather than environmental, but so what?

"People are disillusioned, and even the biggest conservatives are starting to see that clean energy is sane, sound and economically feasible," says local Green Tea Coalition organizer Roy Lynch.

The plan is to put pressure on Georgia's Public Service Commission to quit letting Georgia Power thump its chest like it's the only big ape in the entire jungle. The coalition is also working on a "Ratepayers Bill of Rights" and Dooley will head a rally at the state capitol on Sept. 17.

As long as nobody brings up immigration reform, guns, Obamacare, Rachel Maddow or birth certificates, everything should go just fine.

"We're keeping focused on our common interests. We want to create a level playing field for clean energy options," says Claudia Collier of Greening Georgia, who is helping Lynch and the Sierra Club's Karen Grainey form a coastal Green Tea chapter.

The trio invites all Savannahians annoyed with Georgia Power and/or concerned about the coastal environment — no matter how they voted in the last election — to join the discussion.

"You're not going to get things done in this political environment if you're not willing to reach out," adds Grainey. "It's about mutual respect."

Who knows? Maybe we'll soon see Savannah on a list of "Sanest and Sexiest Energy Policies" and Georgia included in "Favorite States Where People Act Like Intelligent Grown-Ups."

I'm rooting for us. But maybe keep a fire extinguisher and an inflatable rowboat on hand, just in case.

cs

Check out the Green Tea Coalition on Facebook.

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About The Author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Bio:
Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for more than 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.

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