Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Overlooked Environmental Issue of 2011--Lack of Clear US Energy Policy

This residential and commercial development in
Germany is partially powered by solar energy.
Click for photo credit.

As noted in yesterday’s post, I am closing the year with some of the most overlooked environmental issues—both good and bad.  Yesterday, I highlighted issues with one species that is indicative of ecosystem health.  Today, I am focusing in on US energy policy.

The United States still relies heavily on traditional fuels:  coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy.  While there are individual programs that try to promote alternative forms of clean energy, the US does not have a coherent plan to integrate the new generation of energy sources.  Compare this with Germany that developed policies in the early 1990’s that led to them becoming a leader in the implementation of alternative energy in the present day.  In addition, Germany has made a commitment to close all of their nuclear power plants by 2022.

The problem in the US is not a lack of will or technology, but a lack of leadership.  Some have claimed that we should not use tax dollars to support the emerging green technologies.  But, the oil, gas, and nuclear energy sectors are highly subsidized by the government, so it is ridiculous to think that the emerging green energy sector should play by different rules from traditional energy sectors.

In the media one often sees the costs to consumers of green energy compared with traditional energy.  However, the comparisons with traditional energy sources are not fair as discussed in this article.

There is no doubt that the US has the ability to move into renewable energy in a big way, and we have seen progress, particularly in energy efficiency.  However, we do not have clear goals or timetables for the integration of green energy as a significant power source in the US.  In the mean time, we continue to destroy mountains for coal, produce greenhouse gases, generate oil spills, and whistle through the graveyard.

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