The latest pictures of brown pelicans smothered in crude from the bleeding Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico are heartbreaking, especially for those of us who have been covering this tragedy since day one.
Our nation is at a crossroads: Should we continue to provide tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, grants and tax breaks for oil, gas and coal — as we have done for many decades? For instance, this year’s budget included $18 billion in tax breaks to oil drillers, refineries and distributers. The foreign countries that we buy oil from pay even more. According to the most recent data from the International Energy Agency, governments in developing countries pay $310 billion in subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies.
Should the U.S. Congress support a $150 billion investment in clean energy that would create 1.7 million new jobs, significantly lower unemployment and kick-start our nation down the road away from oil, gas and coal?
The first step to contending with any addiction is admitting there’s a problem. The toughest step, unquestionably, is recognizing that there is a problem. Once identified, then we can apply the theory that “for every problem there are at least three solutions.”
There are at least three reasons why the U.S. needs to devise a 20-year plan of action to completely distance itself from dependency of fossil fuels by 2030.
The Southern half of the United States is drying up, and the most precious commodity, without a doubt, is fresh water. No fresh water, no life. Each coal-fired plant requires about 2.2 billion gallons of fresh water per year to generate power. We don’t have the luxury of wasting one drop of water, let alone a couple billion gallons. Each year worldwide coal-fired power plants are spewing somewhere between five and 10 billion tons of mercury vapor into the stratosphere, and 18 months later it’s raining down on the Arctic region. With more sea ice melting each year, mercury poison is accumulating in all ocean life. Each day 3 billion humans rely upon the sea for their daily protein intake — yet mercury poisoning is a known potent neurotoxin.
By subsiding fossil fuels, the U.S. is preventing the free market from selecting the most efficient and effective means of energy for the 21st century. It is preventing new industries from creating new technologies, which in turn will provide jobs and community stability. Half of the 1.7 million jobs that will be created from green technologies will be accessible to workers with relatively low levels of formal education. Of these, nearly 75 percent will have high potential for advancement.
Lastly, the former president of Israel, Shimon Perez, was quoted as saying “we equate oil with terrorism.” Of the 9.5 million barrels of oil we import daily in America, some of it is coming from countries that are not democracies and have ties with terrorism. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this matter; if anything this should be the driving factor to support new, clean, made-in-America energy technologies.
Nigeria has had an Exxon Valdez-sized oil spill an average of at least once a year since 1969. Last year alone on our planet there were 2,000 active oil spills. Desecrating nature is unacceptable.
Five hundred years ago in the year 1500 A.D., there were about 47 million people on Earth. Today our population is more than 6.8 billon people. By 2050, there will be more than 10 billion people on Earth.
Unless we in America begin to value nature and protect her with all our might, all the “cheap” fossil fuels on the planet will not amount to a hill of beans when we have no fresh water, no healthy soils, no burgeoning life in the oceans, nor clean air to breathe.