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Clean up the coal plants. This is a small but necessary first step until we have retired the practice of burning coal for energy. While ideally no new coal-burning power plants should be brought online, those that do should be equipped with cleaner technologies and replace older, more polluting plants. The “clean coal technologies” remove some of the sulfur and nitrogen oxides or convert coal into a gas or liquid fuel. However, this does nothing to address the toxic waste or the carbon dioxide generated.
Develop renewables now. We cannot continue to rely on coal and other fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. They are nonrenewable resources and are the leading source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Since the U.S. energy infrastructure was developed around fossil fuels, we must develop and transition to a new clean energy infrastructure. It will take new federal and state policies; individual, business, and industrial investments; and economic growth – all brought about by the influence of individual consumers. Find green energy to use in your home. Learn more about investing in green energy, and if you own stock in fossil-fuel companies, consider divesting »
Switch subsidies from dirty to clean energy. Renewable energy sources appear to be more expensive than “cheap” coal, but this is only at surface value. The energy industry is heavily subsidized, and the price of energy from fossil fuels does not include the costs it generates of cleaning up massive environmental damages or paying hospital bills. When these factors are taken into account, dirty energy is a lot more expensive than clean alternatives such as solar and wind. The government needs to switch subsidies over to clean, renewable energy in order to facilitate this necessary transition to a greener, independent energy infrastructure.
Increase energy efficiency. Tons of the energy we use goes to waste, whether through building design, escaped heat, or simply leaving the lights on. That translates to completely needless carbon emissions from the coal burned to produce the wasted energy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average American household could cut its utility bills in half by increasing its energy efficiency. “An inefficient home not only puts needless strain on your wallet, but on the environment as well, since the fossil fuel-generated electricity consumed by a single house puts more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars.” Learn how you can increase your energy efficiency »
Reduce energy consumption. The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world’s energy with only 5 percent of the world’s population. Since we have the largest carbon emissions, we have the greatest responsibility to reduce that impact by reducing the amount of energy we use. This will require changes in policy, technology, and lifestyle, and must occur not only at the federal, state, and institutional levels, but also in our individual lives. Learn how you can conserve in your home »