The United Nations Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that up to 30% of plant and animal species could face extinction by mid-century if global warming is left unchecked. But ecosystems and wildlife are not the only things threatened by the climate crisis. Domestically, the U.S. could incur as much as $271 billion in expenses by 2025 from the impacts of just four consequences of unchecked global warming: hurricane damage as storms become more powerful and more frequent, severe water shortages, higher energy costs, and real estate losses from rising sea levels.
The Energy [R]evolution report, which is based on a study commissioned by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) from the German Aerospace Center, proposes a win-win scenario: We can solve global warming and in the process bolster our ailing economy by creating millions of new jobs and securing our energy without being subject to volatile energy prices due to the fluctuating costs of imported fuels.
Two steps to building a clean energy economy
Currently, electricity is generated in the U.S. primarily by burning fossil fuels in large, centralized, inefficient power stations. The first step in the Energy [R]evolution is to use energy smarter. The cheapest, most efficient way to cut global warming emissions is to reduce energy use across all sectors of the economy, which we can easily do by deploying readily available technologies. This would also save businesses and consumers money, which in turn would stimulate economic growth and job creation.
The next step is to repower America with clean energy. According to the report, “Nearly 71 percent of U.S. electricity comes from fossil fuels, including 53 percent from coal. Of the remainder, 21 percent is generated from nuclear power, 15 percent from natural gas, 7 percent from hydro, and less than 2 percent from other renewable sources.” As a result of this energy mix, the U.S. emits more than 2,500 million metric tons of C02 (MMtC02) every year.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. America has vast, largely untapped renewable energy sources. The five states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, and Texas alone have enough wind energy potential to meet all of the country’s electricity needs, according to the report. Nevada could meet all of our energy needs all by itself if just 9 percent of the state’s land was covered in solar thermal plants. Off-shore wind resources could be tapped to produce as much energy as all of our current electricity generators combined. If every rooftop in America installed solar panels, we could meet more than 70 percent of our electricity needs.
Obviously these are just examples of how we could produce clean, renewable energy to power the U.S. We will have to evaluate all of the sources of renewable energy that we have at our disposal and devise the most appropriate energy mix to meet our needs. But these examples show how eminently possible it would be to repower America with clean energy, in the process creating millions of jobs and stimulating our crippled economy.
Clean energy: "Better for America"
As the report states, “According to the University of Massachusetts’s Political Economy Research Institute, investments in wind and solar power create 2.8 times as many jobs as the same investment in coal; mass transit and conservation would create 3.8 times as many jobs as coal.” We project that the Energy [R]evolution Scenario would create 14.5 million more new jobs by 2050 than would be created by meeting our energy needs with continued dependence on fossil fuels.
“This report shows that yes we can solve global warming,” says Greenpeace global warming campaign director Steven Biel. “And guess what? It’s cheaper than fossil fuels and creates more jobs than fossil fuels. Any way you cut it, clean energy is better for America.”
Key principles of the report
The Energy [R]evolution U.S. Scenario represents a major shift in both the way we produce energy and the way it is distributed. It aims to:
- Achieve science-based emissions reductions to minimize climate risk
Every year the U.S. emits over 7 billion tons of global warming pollution, with 85% coming from fossil fuels. The Energy [R]evolution U.S. Scenario would reduce C02 emissions from fossil fuel combustion by 83% below 1990 levels by 2050 and phase out fossil fuels worldwide by 2085.
- Ensure equity and fairness
A third of the world’s population has no access to electricity, while the most industrialized countries consume way more than their fair share. If we are to truly build a sustainable clean energy economy, we must ensure that the benefits of energy services – light, heat, power, transport – are available to everyone. The Energy [R]evolution U.S. Scenario aims to achieve energy equity as soon as technically feasible.
- Implement clean, renewable solutions and energy systems
Renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are not only ready and viable right now, but they are becoming increasingly competitive. Wind, solar, and other renewable technologies have experienced double-digit market growth for the past decade. The Energy [R]evolution U.S. Scenario aims to create a sustainable, decentralized energy system powered by renewable energy sources, which produce less carbon pollution, are cheaper, more efficient, more secure, and involve less dependence on imported fuels, all while creating jobs and empowering local communities.
- Decouple economic growth from fossil fuel use
For far too long, economic growth has been predicated, at least in part, on the combustion of fossil fuels. We need to end this practice and start using the energy we produce more efficiently, while making the transition away from fossil fuels quickly in order to enable the growth of a clean and sustainable economy.
- Phase out dirty, unsustainable energy
The U.S. needs to phase out coal and nuclear power. We cannot continue to build coal plants at a time when global warming poses a dire threat to ecosystems and people, and we cannot continue to ignore the risks of nuclear energy. The next decade is the right time to make substantial structural changes in the electricity sector, as many dirty energy plants in the U.S. are nearing retirement. Within the next 10 years, the U.S. will decide whether to meet energy demand with fossil and nuclear fuels, or with the efficient use of renewable energy. The Energy [R]evolution U.S. Scenario advocates a new political framework that enables the creation of renewable energy and cogeneration power plants as well as dramatic increases in energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, from electricity generation to construction and transport.
“What this report shows is that doing what science says is necessary won’t just provide the planet a living future, it actually will create far more jobs and save far more money than business as usual,” says Biel. “And it will do it without exposing us to the unnecessary risks and pointless boondoggles that would come with any further investments in nuclear or coal.”
Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook
The answer, from some of the world’s top energy experts at the German Aerospace Center (Germany’s counterpart to National Aeronautics and Space Administration), is a resounding yes on all counts.
|Date published:||March 11, 2009|
|Format:|| Adobe PDF |
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|Number of pages:||48|