Washington, DC - As President-elect Obama and a new Congress prepare to meet today’s economic and environment challenges, Environment America 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.
“From the big cities of the coasts to the industrial heartland to our rural communities, the slumping economy is taking its toll and Americans are hurting. President-elect Obama defied conventional wisdom and swept the Midwest on the promise of using clean energy to revitalize the economy,” said Environment America Washington, D.C., Office Director Anna Aurilio. “Now voters will be looking to the new president and Congress to deliver energy savings, new green jobs, and environmental benefits by boosting wind and solar power as well putting us on the path for independence from oil.”
The Environment America 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.
“When you add it all together: energy efficiency, wind, solar and geothermal power, with an assist from other renewable sources like biomass, tidal and wave energy, and you have an equation that can power our homes and businesses, drive our economy, and protect our environment,” said Aurilio.
Switching America over to 100 percent clean electricity was one of three goals laid out in the report, Renewing America: A Blueprint for Economic Recovery. The 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 America 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.
“Clean energy in America is not some distant dream. We have the technology, the tools, and the know-how to use energy more wisely and get more of our energy from clean, renewable sources,” said Aurilio. “What’s more, clean energy can be produced right here at home, creating new jobs in all sectors of the nation’s economy—including many jobs that can never be outsourced.”
Environment America 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 Aurilio. “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,” she concluded.