Clean energy is the foundation of America’s economic future

Environment Colorado

Denver, CO – As President Elect Obama and a new Congress prepare to meet today’s economic and environment challenges, Environment Colorado released a report that lays out a blueprint for how we can power America for the 21st century, protecting our environment while revitalizing our economy.  
“President Elect Obama carried Colorado and now it’s time to make sure that he carries the new energy economy with him,” said Keith Hay, energy advocate at Environment Colorado.  “With a new president and clean energy Congress, Coloradans will be looking for more energy savings, new green jobs, and environmental benefits from a national investment in wind and solar power.”

The Environment Colorado report makes the case that America has enough renewable potential to power the country several times over, providing the following examples:

  • The space available on America’s rooftops alone could host enough solar panels to provide meet about 70 percent of our current electricity needs.
  • Concentrating solar power, also known as solar thermal power, on just 9 percent of the land area of Nevada could produce enough electricity to power the entire United States.
  • The wind blowing over just five U.S. states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana and Texas – could produce enough electricity to power the entire United States.
  • America’s Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes coastlines could host enough wind turbines to nearly match the capacity of all of America’s current electricity generators combined.
  • Geothermal energy, heat from below the earth’s surface, has the potential to meet about half the total electricity production capacity in the United States today.

The group also points out that energy efficiency is one of America’s largest untapped energy sources. By adopting energy efficiency measures that pay for themselves in energy savings over time, our homes, businesses and factories can cut their energy use by at least 25 percent.

“Our economy is broken. Sky-rocketing costs, staggering increases in unemployment, the American dream is being foreclosed,” said Jeff Hohensee, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions. “Business as usual is an incredibly risky option, and we need to make bold choices today. We should invest in a 21st Century America with clean energy as its foundation.” 

“Environment Colorado’s energy plan charts a course of action away from last century’s technologies and into a healthy, secure and prosperous world,” continued Hohensee. “We can no longer afford to extract energy from the earth’s crust. The costs are too high to ship it around the globe, convert it into energy, and mitigate toxic wastes and emissions. The time to invest in a new energy economy is now.”

Switching America over to 100 percent clean electricity was one of several goals laid out in the report, Renewing America: A Blueprint for Economic Recovery.  A second goal, cutting America’s oil consumption in half, requires a different set of policies because transportation accounts for 70 percent of America’s oil consumption.  

While Americans have been cutting back on driving, with transit ridership at a 50 year high, 85 percent of transit systems are experiencing capacity problems and 65 percent lack the revenue they need to increase service.  In addition to funding transportation options, Environment Colorado pointed out that increasing auto-efficiency with already available technologies would dramatically reduce our oil dependence and take a significant bite out of the $400 billion Americans spend on gasoline annually.

“We need bold goals like Environment Colorado’s to help us change course with a clear purpose,” said Steve Andrews, co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas. “Cutting our demand for oil by 50 percent by 2030 — an enormous challenge — becomes more and more critical as world oil production is set to plateau and decline within the next few years. Even with steadily higher prices from 2002 through July of this year, oil supplies stayed relatively flat for the last three years. Don’t be fooled, high prices will come back with a vengeance.” 

 “Now is the time to prepare for peak oil,” continued Andrews. “’Renewing America’ lays out a vision that can benefit our economy while cutting our demand for oil. Raising mile per gallon standards, bringing plug-in hybrids to market, and creating transit options are real solutions we can adopt today.”

Environment Colorado’s report summarized several studies that found dramatic employment opportunities created by investing in clean energy.  One study by economists at the University of Massachusetts for the Center for American Progress found that investing in clean energy infrastructure would provide four times as many jobs as investing that same money in the oil industry.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that there are already 750,000 “green jobs” in the United States directly or indirectly supporting clean, renewable energy.  American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that energy efficiency currently supports 1.63 million jobs nationwide. Laid-off workers in the nation’s “Rust Belt” are getting back to work building wind turbines and solar panels; farmers in the Midwest are supplementing their incomes with royalties from wind farms; and residents of economically distressed inner cities are learning how to install solar panels and weatherize homes for greater energy efficiency.

“To turn this trickle of green jobs into a torrent of new economic opportunities, we need to act boldly – and fast. America can and must switch to 100 percent clean power and cut our oil consumption in half – and create millions of new jobs doing it,” said Ron Larson, past-president of the American Solar Energy Society and co-founder of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “There is much President-elect Obama and our new Congress can do. First off, investing in energy efficiency, wind and solar power, and public transit must be a cornerstone of any economic recovery plan,” he concluded.