For too long as the planet heated up, the United States dithered, caught between a growing realization that it needed to kick the fossil fuel habit, but wondering whether it actually could.
Fossil fuels were entrenched, literally baked into everything — from how we heated our homes to how we powered the economy. Fossil fuels were the engine and, for the special interests who ran the plants, the mines and refineries, the profits gushed. They were allowed to pollute our air and water without paying the cleanup costs they imposed on the rest of us. Although alternative energy sources like wind and solar were developed, they had trouble competing with legacy dirty energy companies and the favorable tax treatment that surrounded them.
But the big oil companies can’t stop progress forever. Technological advancements made wind and solar more affordable, and they now compete and win on costs even with a playing field still tilted in favor of fossil fuels. And public concern about dirty air and water and the damage we’re doing to our climate increased demand for clean energy.
Now for the first time ever a major political party has adopted 100% clean energy as part of its policy platform. The Democrats have said yes to 100% and the reasons are clear: clean energy will protect our health, our economy and our futures.
In stark contrast, Donald Trump’s Republican party has lurched even more sharply to the right, staking out a turn-back-the-clock platform that, among other dangerous things, described coal—America’s top source of greenhouse gases– as a “clean” source of energy.
The GOP’s flagrant attempt at rebranding coal is clearly political pandering to the corporate polluters who fund their campaigns —but the consequences are deadly serious. In addition to carbon dioxide, burning coal dumps over 67 toxic pollutants into our air, including mercury and sulfur dioxide. These dangerous air pollutants cause neurological damage and irritate respiratory diseases, like asthma. The shift to clean energy and closure of coals plants is the main reason U.S. carbon emissions have declined 10 percent in a decade.
Climate change is our nation’s greatest challenge—left unaddressed, it will have devastating impacts on our economy, our environment, and our communities and families.
In calling for a transition to 100% clean energy by 2050, the Democrats set a bold agenda. They also did their math. The goal of 100% clean energy is achievable with existing technology. In fact, in the first quarter of 2016 in the U.S., more than 98% of NEW electricity generation capacity was renewable. Four American cities – Burlington, Aspen, Greensburg, and Kodiak Island – already are powered by 100% renewable energy and several others, like San Diego, have pledged to reach 100% before 2035. And in places like Texas, wind energy alone can account for up to 45% of its total electricity needs. By electing climate champions, we can make the transition to 100% clean energy can happen.
Let’s do this.