America Leads

This month’s issue of the Sierra Club magazine has an article on our energy future. It looks at 3 scenarios for energy usage in the U.S.: Business as Usual, Best Current Practices and “America Leads”, an intensive effort on conservation and renewable sources:

AMERICA LEADS In the third scenario, our country embraces not only today’s best practices but also tomorrow’s opportunities. We approach global warming as if our survival were at stake, constructing a “war effort” like the Army’s Manhattan Project. The entire country embraces policies that go further than any state’s have yet. For a transition period, we continue to drill existing oil leases and burn coal. At the same time, we use energy more efficiently than ever–significantly reducing our need for fossil fuel. We steer clear of new nuclear power plants and invest in safer alternatives: wind, solar, oceans, and biomass. We proactively slant subsidies to favor renewables. We get prices right: The high cost of pollution is reflected in how much consumers pay for their energy. Suddenly getting your power from a coal-fired plant costs a lot more than using wind or even solar power. As renewable energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels, change happens fast. We dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, bringing them down to the levels scientists say are necessary to prevent the worst effects of global warming: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Only this scenario offers future generations a road map to a brighter future. It requires major changes, but many of them provide multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits. Americans have gotten ourselves out of tough jams and overcome big obstacles before. We cured polio, put a man on the moon, and ended segregation. If we set our minds to it, we could also meet the enormous challenge of global warming. We already have the know-how. Unleashed, American ingenuity could build cars that get 100 miles per gallon. It could produce energy from wind, the sun, and green plants to power millions of homes. It could make machines and buildings that run on a fraction of the energy they use now. As stewards of the planet, caretakers of creation, and responsible parents, how can we do otherwise?

Why shouldn’t we lead?

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