America is at an energy crossroad. As a nation, we are dependent on fossil fuels at a time of growing demand and dwindling supply. Meanwhile, fossil fuel use continues to impose massive environmental and economic costs. Now our country must choose between paying to continue the status quo and investing in a new energy future.
The costs of continuing on our current energy path are steep. American consumers and businesses already spend roughly $700 billion to $1 trillion each year on coal, oil and natural gas, and suffer the incalculable costs of pollution from fossil fuels through damage to our health and environment. If America continues along a business-as-usual energy path, U.S. fossil fuel spending is likely to grow, totaling an estimated $23 trillion between 2010 and 2030.
Policymakers in Washington, D.C., and many states have recently taken the first small steps toward a clean energy future, adopting policies to encourage energy efficiency, ramp up the use of solar and wind power, and curb global warming pollution. Now, with even bolder steps – such as a national cap on global warming pollution and more ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency – on the public agenda, powerful interests with a stake in preserving the status quo have criticized strong clean energy policies as being too expensive for the American public.
In fact, the reverse is true. The United States cannot afford to wait to break our dependence on fossil fuels. The cost of fossil fuels to our economy and our environment will continue to mount in the years to come unless the nation takes bold steps now to embrace the benefits of a clean energy future.
Environment New Mexico Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.