This Earth Day, call for clean energy
— Michael Brune is Executive Director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States and author of Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal. —
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and people are looking back at an amazing 40 years of environmental successes. Americans have come together in their neighborhoods, cities, states and nationally to demand cleaner air and water – and they have been successful.
This should serve as an inspiration for the current and future work to help our planet and the challenges we face along the way. While our rivers were at one time catching fire, it is now our rapidly warming planet we turn the focus to.
Our country is chained to outdated, dirty energy sources such as coal and oil, which are in turn causing global warming. Burning coal for power creates 30 percent of our country’s global warming pollution – not to mention the health impacts it has on people and our land and water.
Pollution from coal plants adds $62 billion a year to health care costs, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Research from the American Lung Association shows that coal pollution causes more than 12,000 hospitalizations, 38,000 heart attacks and 24,000 deaths each year.
Coal is a bad investment. Instead of spending millions to artificially extend the life of the outdated coal fleet, we should take the opportunity to diversify our energy mix and to expand investments in existing clean energy technologies that can provide power without the dangerous and harmful effects of coal.
We can do better than energy sources that cause environmental and human health problems. A clean energy future not only fights global warming, but it’s also good for our economy. It’s time to phase out this old way of generating power and transition to clean energy technologies, like wind, solar and efficiency, that will power the future and create good-paying jobs for Americans.
It’s time to make our country more energy efficient, as well. We can save money right now by increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings, vehicles, appliances and more. Improving energy efficiency lowers energy bills, eliminates the need for new power plants, increases our energy independence, reduces air and water pollution and cuts the carbon emissions that cause global warming.
From gigantic multinational corporations to small, family-owned stores, businesses of all types are turning to energy efficiency to cut costs. By going green, they are realizing long-term savings that more than make up for the upfront expense.
Switching to clean energy creates jobs and boosts the economy, and clean energy technologies are available and already creating thousands of jobs around the country. According to an October 2009 study from Yale University, clean energy investments will create as many as 1.9 million jobs nationally by 2020.
Many of these clean energy jobs–building wind turbines, installing solar panels, renovating buildings to make them more energy efficient, constructing the Smart Grid–are jobs that can’t be outsourced and will make America a world economic leader.
As we face the environmental challenge of a generation in global warming, it is the time to demand less pollution, more jobs and greater security. It is time for a clean energy economy in the U.S.
Photo shows people looking for small crabs in front of wind turbines that generate electricity in Gaomei Wetland in Taichung, Taiwan, Dec. 6, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh