It agenda in order to achieve status as

It
is essential that the United States adopt an ambitious and comprehensive
renewable energy based agenda in order to achieve status as a low emissions
society. Currently, renewable energy only accounts for 15% of total US energy
consumption, with a substantial amount of energy generation accredited to
fossil fuels (64%). The goal of such proposed policy should entail a cost-effective
combination of energy efficient improvements, renewable energy deployment and
streamlined market integration. Further, a collaborative commitment to
renewable energy by consumers, businesses and the US Government should be
achieved to yield a healthy and sustainable climate for years to come.

Currently,
the United States is heavily reliant on fossil fuels as a main source of
energy. In 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration, of the
4 trillion kilowatt-hours of energy generated, 34% was produced by natural gas
and another 30% was produced from coal. Such statistics reveal a dependence on
environmentally harmful sources of energy — a dependency which must be diminished.

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Further, the United States is not
utilizing the full potential of its renewable energy capabilities. Of the mere
15% of total energy produced by renewable sources, over 80% comes from
hydropower and wind energy, indicating an underuse of other sources such as
solar energy.

Bi-phase Plan Overview

The
goal of this proposal is to effectively reduce the United States’ reliance on
fossil fuels by setting goals for both the near (2022) and far (2030) future. Through
government investment, environmentally driven business policy, and informed
consumer choices, renewable energy as a source of electricity will ideally
become a nationwide norm and highly utilized resource. By 2022, the goal of
such policy recommendations contained in this proposal is for renewable energy
to increase its market share within the US energy consumption market from 15%
to 20%— a 33% increase in four years. This short term plan will involve a
serious cutback on the use of coal; instead replacing much of energy lost with
that of natural gas, a much less harmful fossil fuel. Though this trade off
will create a temporary increase in use of natural gas, it should cut CO2
emissions by a substantial amount. During this four-year period, the conversion
to and development of solar and wind farms should be taking place concurrently.

 By 2030, the goal of such policy
recommendation is to increase renewable energy market share even further, from
20% to 32% — a 60% increase in eight years. The long run expectation for fossil
fuels is that of decreased dependency and more environmentally methods of
production/procurement. Given ample time for research and development regarding
ways to develop more efficient solar and wind technology, the hope is that use
of both coal and natural gas will fall to make up less than or equal to 50%
market share. Though this may still seem like a large amount — and thus, still
as environmentally unfriendly — government incentives and consumer cooperation
will hopefully create habits that stray the general public away from pollutant
emitting actions (as will be discussed in detail later on).

Nuclear Power

            Note that this plan does
contains neither expansion nor reduction of the United States nuclear power
program. Currently, the US nuclear industry is struggling due to competitive
fossil fuel prices and high financing costs for nuclear power plants. In the
past decade, many nuclear power plant development projects have been delayed or
cancelled as financing is difficult in comparison to the cost of using natural
gas. Further, the fission of uranium isotopes, which releases kinetic heat that
is used to power a steam turbine, presents a history of safety issues and
controversy including tritium leaks, reactor meltdowns and nuclear waste
dumping. For these reasons, future development of nuclear fission reactors is a
futile pursuit. Because nuclear fusion (which uses the combination of hydrogen
isotopes to generate high amounts of energy) is not yet feasible option for
widespread renewable energy generation, this plan will omit changes to the
current program.

Fossil
Fuel Reduction

            The use of fossil fuels
— such as coal, oil and natural gas — is extremely harmful to the environment
at all stages of production. In 2014, 78% of greenhouse gas emissions were
related to the release of carbon dioxide by the energy industry. Of this
number, 32% came from coal and 27% from natural gas. The extraction of coal
often uses harmful processes such as strip mining and mountaintop removal.

Further, when coal is mined and processed, particulate matter is released which
can cause lung issues. When hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”)
methods are used to obtain natural gas, it can lead to groundwater pollution
and minor earthquakes. Further, it is a waste of water itself, as millions of
gallons are required per well. Additionally, methane, a greenhouse gas
significantly more harmful than CO2, is released at many stages of
drilling and transportation. It is often leaked from natural gas pipelines, a
dangerous occurrence as it has no distinct smell or appearance. Methane can
also be produced through oil drilling, where it is either vented or burned and
released into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming.

            Other
emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels involve sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Sulfur dioxide arises from the burning
of coal and is a main component of acid rain and particulate matter. For these
reasons, because coal cannot be completely eradicated as an energy source, the
increased use of electrostatic precipitators and fabric filter bag-houses
should be implemented to reduce the emission of particulate matter.

Additionally, mercury is produced by coal-fired power plants and is
biomagnified up aquatic food chains where it can cause neurological damage. Nitrogen
oxide is a product of all fossil fuel combustion. It is known to be one of the
main contributors to acid rain photochemical smog. Acid rain increases the
acidity of bodies of water, which can upset the aquatic ecosystems.

Additionally, it can leach nutrients from the soil.

            It
is for these reasons that a short term switch from coal to natural gas is ideal
to conserve our environment. Coal produces two times more CO2 than
natural gas, thus a steep drop in coal powered power plants and a small
increase in natural gas power plants would severely reduce the amount of CO2
emissions by 2022. Additionally, with developing research regarding carbon
sequestration, emissions from the remaining coal power plants will hopefully be
lowered as well. In the long term, reduced dependency on all fossil fuels is
the most ideal outcome.

Expanding
the Renewable Energy Program

            Currently, hydropower is
most used source of renewable energy in the US, comprising 44% of all energy
generation. This proposal does not attempt to make changes to the current
hydropower program. Instead, this recommendation is focused on the expansion of
solar and wind energy — two resources with largely untapped possibility —  on the abundant plains and open land that the United
States has to offer. Solar photovoltaic panels change sunlight directly into
electricity through the excitement of electrons. The main benefit of solar
energy is that it is a completely clean source that produces neither air
pollutants nor carbon dioxide. Additionally, other than the crystalline silicon
used to produce the photovoltaic panels, there is minimal effect of the
environment. The only downside of solar energy is the non-constant nature of
the day-to-day sunlight reaching earth’s surface. For these reasons, solar
farms should be placed in regions of the United States that experience mild
weather with many sunlight days, minimal cloud cover and low amounts of
precipitation. Further, it is worth the investment to build tracking panels to optimize
the hours of sunlight exposure.

            Wind
turbines are another completely clean source of energy that operate by letting wind
spin blades, which operate a turbine creating energy within a generator’s
magnetic field. In 2016, 40 states had utility scale wind farms — a number that
can hopefully be raised to all 48 continental US states. As wind speed
increases with altitude and is most efficient in large open areas without
windbreaks, this plan recommends the immediate construction of windfarms in the
many open plains and mountain gaps of the continental US. Further, the United
States has the potential for successful amounts of offshore wind farm energy
generation off the East Coast. Because wind turbines do not release emissions
when generating energy and release no air pollutants, they will be instrumental
in the shift towards a low emissions society. As for the downsides, researchers
are working on streamlining the appearance of the turbines — though this issue
is solved by erecting them offshore. Further, the wind energy industry is considering
designs that will ensure the protection of winged animals, such as birds and
bats.

Consumer
Cooperation

            As
mentioned above, consumer cooperation plays a large role in the success of this
proposed energy plan. Whether it is switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles
or investing in renewable energy, the consumer is largely responsible for the
day-to-day choices regarding their sources of energy. The first commitment that
consumers can make to the renewable energy shift is switching to a hybrid or
electric car. Gasoline powered cars emit numerous air pollutants such as NOx,
VOCs, CO2 and particulate matter through the combustion of fossil
fuels. By investing in a hybrid (a car which runs on both gas and electricity)
or an electric car, consumers can ensure that they are reducing their emissions.

For those that do not feel comfortable making the leap to an electric vehicle,
switching to a car with better gas mileage or being a more conservative driver
can make a big difference as well. Consumers can also invest in various sources
of smaller scale renewable energy production. Those building a new house might
consider incorporating elements of passive or active solar heating. Another common
investment is in solar panel units, often placed on the roof or in the backyard
of residential homes. The incentives to do so are high, as the electricity
generated from these panels can then be used to power the home itself and the solar
renewable energy credits can be sold for profit. Lastly, for those who live in
rural areas or own farms, investment in wind turbines could prove a worthwhile
endeavor as, similarly to solar panels, the electricity generated can be used
to power the surrounding area and renewable energy credits can be sold for
profit.

Business
Action

            The corporate world also
plays an important role in the implementation of renewable energy through promotion
of and commitment to 100% renewable power. Companies like We Mean Business have
taken initiative in this regard, persuading over 100 companies — including
market leaders such as Walmart, Ikea, Nestle and Unilever — to agree to the low
carbon transition and ambitious goal of 100% renewable energy. Taking advantage
of their influential position as market leaders, these companies should promote
the commitment to environmental protection — as through such actions, not only
is the public made aware of its necessity but company employees are also
indoctrinated to the importance of such action.

Government
Incentive

            Lastly, the US
government has a responsibility to both its citizens and its environment to
prevent detrimental climate change by converting to a low emissions society as soon
as possible. The most effective way to do so would be using a three-pronged: incentivize
the citizens, pass effective environmentally conservative legislature, build a
clean energy economy. First, by giving both business and individuals citizens
incentives, such as tax credits or subsidies, to invest in renewable energy,
the government would play a large role in the acceleration of the widespread
application of new technologies. For example, the US government currently gives
electric car owners a $7,500 tax credit simply for purchasing their vehicle. They
have also paid $26 billion for energy subsidies to support research and
development for renewable technologies.  Second,
legislature that places a tax on carbon dioxide emissions would serve as a sin
tax, de-incentivizing the use of fossil fuels and supporting the use and growth
of electricity generated from wind and solar sources. The revenues from this
tax could then be used to fund more clean-energy research and development.

Third, by building a clean energy economy through investing in renewable energy
technology, business and approaches, the federal government can ensure
exponential growth of this sector. Already, companies are pursuing clean energy
because it is the fastest growing sector in the United States. The federal government
should encourage and support this growth, providing legislation and funds
needed to continue the innovation.

The
Necessity of an Updated Energy Agenda

            Climate
change poses a threat to the world and our ecosystem as we know it. What used
to be textbook warnings for future conditions — month long wildfires that
ravage town after town, three devastating hurricanes in the span of a month, entire
island nations in danger of being submerged in the ocean — have now become
reality. Rising temperatures will lead to melting icebergs, sea level rise, increased
air pollution, shorter and more volatile winters and unpredictable weather.

Governments, business and communities must commit to bold action against the
combustion of fossil fuels, instead looking towards clean and renewable sources
of energy to power the future.

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