Dirty energy pollutes the air we breathe, threatening our health and our environment. When power plants burn coal, oil or gas, they create the ingredients for ground-level ozone pollution, one of the main components of “smog” pollution. Especially on hot summer days, across wide areas of the United States, ozone pollution reaches levels that are unhealthy to breathe, putting our lives at risk. In 2009, U.S. power plants emitted more than 1.9 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution into the air.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, mercury impairs 3,781 bodies of water across the country, and 6,363,707 acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in the United States are contaminated by mercury pollution.
In February 2010, the Obama administration announced that it would help finance two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, offering an $8.33 billion loan guarantee to Georgia Power (a subsidiary of Southern Company) and two other companies invested in the project. President Obama claimed that the investment was necessary to create clean energy jobs, stimulate our economy to export homegrown technology instead of importing foreign oil, and secure the future of our planet and our civilization by fighting the growing threat of global warming.
However, this loan is an expensive gamble on a technology with a long history of bankrupting utilities and soaking ratepayers. New nuclear reactors are not cheap, not clean, and will set America back in the race against global warming. Most importantly, they are not necessary. Clean energy technologies can begin cutting global warming pollution right away, do so at lower cost and with less risk, and will create more jobs in the process.
Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year—threatening both the environment and human health. According to the EPA, pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 10,000 miles of rivers and more than 200,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.
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.