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America needs new energy future

11 November 2001 , 10:32413
Since Sept. 11, some narrow special interests have proposed harmful oil and gas drilling in the name of energy security. They are partially correct: America does need a long-term national energy policy.

However, spoiling pristine areas, including the Florida coastline and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, with oil and gas drilling is not the answer. On the other hand, increasing energy efficiency and clean sources of renewable energy will help create jobs, save consumers money and reduce environmental pollution.

Energy efficiency generates great benefits for our economy by making the United States more competitive around the globe. According to the Wisconsin Energy Bureau, the use of renewable energy generates about three times as many jobs as an equivalent expenditure on oil.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources benefit consumers. Americans today use 40 percent less energy as a result of efficiency policies initiated in the past 25 years. Had government leaders not implemented those programs, Americans would have spent $260 billion more on energy bills in 2000. A national renewable standard of 20 percent of power generation from renewable energy sources by 2020, combined with energy-efficiency policies, could save consumers an extra $150 billion by 2020.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources help protect the environment. In the United States, 82 percent of global-warming pollution comes from energy production, and 95 percent of radioactive waste comes from nuclear power. Setting a national renewable standard of 20 percent could reduce global warming emissions by 40 percent, and smog and soot-forming pollution by more than 25 percent.

Renewable energy sources could help diversify our energy portfolio. The potential power output of wind, solar and geothermal resources in the United States is many times greater than our total electricity consumption. The wind that blows in just four states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska -- is enough to meet the electricity needs of the entire country. In Florida, we could produce 10 percent of our electricity from solar power simply by putting a 2-kilowatt solar array on every household.

Instead of promoting these technologies, however, decision makers in Washington are siding with the dirty fuel industries. The energy legislation, which passed in the House of Representatives this summer and is now headed to the Senate, would reward the oil, coal, nuclear and auto industries that have perpetuated America's energy problems, and does little to protect our health, our environment, or our economy.

Florida Sens. Bob Graham and Bill Nelson should reject the flawed House energy legislation. Instead, they should support a proactive policy that rejects more drilling and more spilling and moves toward cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions. Requiring significant energy production from renewable energy sources, and increasing energy efficiency, are important steps to a new energy future.

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