“For decades, we’ve been told that it doesn’t make economic sense to switch to renewable energy. Today, that’s no longer true,” remarked former President Barack Obama. If the current trend of global consumption of fossil fuels remains constant, the world’s available fossil fuel reserves will be consumed by the early 22nd century. Since the industrial age, mankind has depended on fossil fuels for our energy needs.
However, the use of fossil fuels has created a drastic problem due to its mass-consumption and harmful environmental impacts. As a result, the shift to renewable energy in the past few years has started to develop immensely, but not fast enough. Renewable energy possesses the ability to replenish at the same rate it is used and derives from natural powers—such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy and ocean power. For the advantages of being environmentally friendly, being both economically beneficial and stable, and producing a multitude of job opportunities, the US government must play a greater role in shifting energy dependency to renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
To begin, the US government must greater enforce the movement to renewable energy sources due to their minor environmental impacts mainly in categories of carbon emissions, as well as in air and water pollution—which concern public health. Compared to fossil fuels, the quantity of carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere from renewable sources is certainly minimal. According to a 2012 report from the International Panel on Climate Change, when fossil fuels—such as natural gas and coal—are burned, between 0.
6 to 3.6 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh) is emitted. On the contrary, renewable sources—such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower—emit as low as 0.02 pounds of CO2E/kWh and only as high as 0.5 pounds of CO2E/kWh. Even though, the difference of these emissions may seem slight at a glimpse, when observing the mass-production of energy over a period of time, the amount of carbon definitely poses a threat to the environment. In 2017 only, nearly 36.8 gigatons worth of carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere, and this was just carbon emissions (Carbon Brief).
Carbon along with numerous other global warming emissions—such as methane and nitrous oxide—are a detriment as they trap heat in the atmosphere; thus, resulting in temperature increase and other impacts including stronger storms, drought, sea level rise, and even extinction. Therefore, it stands to reason that fully initializing a movement to renewables in a leading country, like the US, will not only significantly reduce global warming emissions but will also be beneficial to human safety.Another essential point, the US government must veer to renewables for its continuous refinement in production and installment costs. Christiana Figueres, the former UN Climate Chief, who delivered the Paris Agreement and is currently the Convenor of Mission 2020, stated, “The economic case for renewables as the backbone of our global energy system is increasingly clear and proven. Offering ever greater bang-for-buck, renewables are quite simply the cheapest way to generate energy in an ever-growing number of countries.” To elaborate, a new record-breaking renewable energy capacity installed worldwide in 2016 carried 161 gigawatts, which was a 10% increase compared to 2015’s capacity. Costing $242 billion, it was a 23% decline in investment compared to 2015.
Despite this, subsidies for renewables are unfortunately still much lower compared to subsidies for fossil fuels, which disrupt the environment. It is apparent that with the advancing technologies of this generation, prices and capacities will only become cheaper. Subsequently, some may argue that when including the costs of investments for renewables, its values start to show its costliness; however, once installed, renewables operate at very low costs that will still decline as the market grows. Furthermore, it makes sense that investment costs will also decline as time goes on. According to the 2017 Solar Market Insight Report and 2016 U.
S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, the average price to install solar power dropped more than 70% between 2010 and 2017 and the cost of generating electricity from wind dropped 66% between 2009 and 2016. In comparison, fossil fuel prices can sometimes be unpredictable due to fluctuating energy demands. By allowing more renewable energy, the people will also benefit as competition with fossil fuels will lower costs and demand; as a result, people would be able to rely on renewables if fossil fuels rise in price for any reason. For that reason, in the long run, renewables will undoubtedly be beneficial to the US.
Last but not least, it is a responsibility for the US government to adjust to renewables for holding the capacity to allow countless amounts of job opportunities. Between Quarter 2 of 2015 and Quarter 1 of 2016, renewable energy employment increased by approximately 18%, and that’s excluding efficiency jobs. In addition, through the clean energy industry, 3,384,834 Americans were directly employed.
By comparison, during Quarter 1 of 2016, it was estimated that only 2,989,844 Americans were directly employed by the fossil fuel industry—this includes fuels and electric power generation from coal, natural gas, and petroleum and the manufacturing of gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles (US Department of Energy). As time goes on and renewables advance, jobs will continue to rise immensely as they are already outnumbering fossil fuel jobs. Thus, through the reliance on renewable energy, people not only from the US but internationally, will have the opportunity to pursue millions of new jobs for generations to come.Hence, it can be observed that for a successful global movement towards a lasting world, it a necessity for governments of powerful countries, such as the United States, to greater enforce the shift to renewable energy sources due to their minuscule environmental impacts, improving economic advantages and opportunities, as well as proven sustainability.
The world, for too long, has continued to diminish fossil fuels due to unfamiliarity with its impacts and with the opposing benefits of renewables. Today, that is no longer true. Numerable influential organizations and individuals have already shed light on the importance of energy with minimized consequences; however, it is now time for the world to take a collective effort.
If the world persists to cling to the consumption of detrimental fossil fuels, who knows when the world might ultimately be destroyed in its already damaged condition.