We can’t afford America’s addiction to imported oil. Oil prices have squeezed families, sabotaged the economy, and undermined our national security. Oil companies, not coincidentally, posted their highest profits in history last year. At the same time, global warming is upon us. There is overwhelming agreement among climate scientists that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity has contributed to the deterioration of our atmosphere.
The best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is to end our dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously protect the earth we leave to our children. We need to build things in America again, starting with wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say “Made in America.” Our country has led every technological revolution of the last two centuries—electricity, railroads, telephones, automobiles, television, computers—and there’s no reason we can’t lead this one. It’s time to harness the greatest source of power we have: American ingenuity.
There’s nothing more important we can do for our national security than to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We can’t afford to be held hostage by Middle Eastern countries that are strangling our economy and helping funnel money to terrorists. And we can’t afford to continue relying on fuels developed a century ago that pollute the air our children breathe and destroy our atmosphere.
We should honor our great traditions, the most fundamental of which is to leave our children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as the one our parents and grandparents left to us. It’s time we invest in clean, renewable fuels that never run out. It’s time to put our children’s future ahead of oil industry profits. We have a sacred obligation to steward the earth wisely, and it’s time we honor that obligation.
The Right is Wrong
Opponents argue that the solution to our energy problems is “drill baby, drill.” But in fact, their leaders know perfectly well that drilling offshore or in the Alaskan wilderness would produce no oil for a decade. They know perfectly well that even in two decades this new offshore and Alaskan oil would have almost no effect on the price of gasoline—because President Bush’s experts in the Energy Department said so.
Opponents argue that global warming is a fantasy. But in fact, objective scientists are virtually unanimous in concluding that warming is occurring and that at least part of the problem is man-made. It’s time for conservatives to take their heads out of the sand, acknowledge the scientific facts, and agree with Americans that we need to take steps to solve the problem.
The genius of America is to turn crisis into opportunity. If we launch a concerted drive for energy independence, we can transition our nation to clean, affordable energy alternatives, maximize energy efficiency, and address the recession by creating millions of “green” jobs. The main elements of a national energy initiative include:
- Implementing a cap on carbon emissions.
- Increasing fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, thereby saving nearly a half-trillion gallons of gasoline and bringing automobile technologies into the 21st century.
- Requiring that at least 20 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal by 2020.
- Encouraging energy efficiency, including the weatherization of homes and office buildings.
- Transitioning to a new, high-tech “smart” electrical grid.
- Making the federal government a leader in the green building market by achieving a 40 percent increase in efficiency in all new federal buildings within five years and ensuring that these buildings produce zero emissions by 2025.
America is addicted to foreign oil. The U.S. uses one-fourth of the world’s daily consumption of oil (21 of 85 million barrels). [CIA World Factbook] About 57 percent of the oil we use is imported from foreign countries, and about 46 percent of that comes from OPEC nations. [U.S. Department of Energy]
Oil companies continue to exploit American consumers. Despite the recession, Exxon Mobil made $45.2 billion in 2008—its highest-ever annual profit. Other petroleum companies also enjoyed banner years. [Washington Post] Meanwhile, those same oil companies continue to receive billions in tax breaks and government subsidies. [U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce]
New domestic oil drilling cannot solve our energy problems in the short or long term. Normally, it takes years to set up operations, dig test wells, and build a functioning oil rig so that oil can get to market. Authorities estimate it would take 10 years before any oil is pumped out of new wells offshore or in the Alaskan Wilderness, and about 20 years before those wells reach peak capacity. [Energy Information Administration] In any case, domestic drilling can never solve our energy problems because the U.S. has only about 1½ percent of the world’s oil reserves. [Energy Information Administration]
Global warming is a scientific fact. There is overwhelming agreement among climate scientists that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity has contributed to the problem of global warming. [Harris Poll] In fact, the top 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997. [NASA]
Heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming are disproportionately generated by the United States. Americans make up just 4 percent of the world’s population, but produce 25 percent of the carbon emissions from fossil fuels. [Natural Resources Defense Council]
A cap on carbon emissions would save money in the long term. A cap-and-trade system by itself would cost the average household approximately $100 a year in higher prices in the short term (which can be refunded to consumers through tax credits). Over time, the same system would save the average household $900 a year in lower energy costs. [Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Protection Agency] Opponents sometimes argue that a cap-and-trade system would constitute a “tax increase” costing Americans $3,000 per year. However, that figure is a complete fabrication. [Media Matters]
Americans support a cap on carbon emissions. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say they favor “setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices.” Only 33 percent oppose such a law, according to the Pew Research Center. [Pew Research Poll]
Making America more energy independent and addressing global warming will create millions of new “green” jobs. As our traditional manufacturing jobs continue to disappear, we need to replace them with new jobs manufacturing clean, alternative energy and retrofitting homes and businesses with energy-efficient technologies so we don’t waste the energy we produce. We can create at least 5 million “green” jobs that cannot be outsourced. [Apollo Alliance]
Americans strongly favor federal regulation of greenhouse gases.
“Do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?”
Should 75% (strongly 54%, somewhat 21%)
Should not 21% (strongly 12%, somewhat 9%)
No opinion 4%
ABC News/Washington Post poll, April 30, 2009
But they are also concerned about increased costs from federal regulation.
“How concerned are you that federal regulation of greenhouse gases could substantially raise the price of things you have to pay for—very concerned, somewhat concerned, not so concerned or not concerned at all?”
Concerned 77% (very 36%, somewhat 41%)
No concerned 22% (not at all concerned 8%, not so concerned 14%)
No opinion 1%
ABC News/Washington Post poll, April 30, 2009
Americans support a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions.
“Do you favor or oppose…setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices?”
Don’t know 8%
Cap-and-trade is supported by 70% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 42% of Republicans.
Pew Research poll, March 25, 2009
Americans want to increase government financial support for alternative energy.
“Would you prefer the government to increase, decrease, or not change the financial support and incentives it gives for producing energy from alternative sources such as wind and solar?”
Not change 13%
Gallup Poll. March 5-8, 2009
SAN JOSE, Calif., May 2 — Strangers are flocking to Eric and Nicole Jorgensen's boxy 50-year-old tract house. With energy on nearly everyone's mind, the Jorgensens' place — with solar panels on the back roof, a sun oven in the backyard and a meter that runs backward — is a full-scale attraction. It draws fifth-grade classes, international news crews and fellow homeowners.
"California has so much sun that it's silly everyone isn't doing this," said Mr. Jorgensen, 34, a physicist at Stanford University. He hitched his house to the sun and wind last October, and it now produces more energy than it uses. [New York Times, May 3, 2001]
SWEETWATER, Tex. — The wind turbines that recently went up on Louis Brooks’s ranch are twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, with blades that span as wide as the wingspan of a jumbo jet. “That’s just money you’re hearing,” he said as the turbines hummed in a brisk breeze recently.
Teenagers who used to flee small towns like Sweetwater after high school are sticking around to take technical courses in local junior colleges and then work on wind farms. Marginal ranches and cotton farms are worth more with wind turbines on them.
“Wind has invigorated our business like you wouldn’t believe,” said Marty Foust, local shopkeeper. “We’re now in our own bubble.” [New York Times, February 23, 2008]