OPINION: A clean energy future is possible through a 'Just Transition' to renewable energy
This Earth Day, I urge all of us to work together to help stop global warming through a Just Transition towards clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. We can curb global warming while at the same time build a new economy that does not, as my friend Winona LaDuke says, cannibalize our own Mother. We can act now to create green collar jobs for a healthier economy and most importantly, help restore our Mother Earth. I hope you can contact your leaders and ask them to support a Just Transition towards wind and solar energy investment as well as energy efficiency.
Americans are fed up. Polls show that more than 80 percent believe America is off track. They are being squeezed by record gas prices that are also driving up the costs of food and anything else that is transported to stores. Home energy bills are rising. Oil companies continue to reap record profits and get huge tax breaks from the U.S. government. We continue to rely on foreign oil. The economy is tanking and people are losing their jobs.
No wonder Americans are so hungry for change. Switching to clean energy represents the type of big change that America is looking for. People are ready to move beyond oil and coal, to use renewable wind and solar power and to become more energy efficient. Americans recognize and accept clean energy as a driver that will transform our economy, create and keep good jobs, generate new investment and opportunities. At the same time, this economic transformation will allow us to free ourselves from the big oil companies and foreign countries and it will cut air, water and global warming pollution.
This win, win, win is not some pie-in-the-sky, next generation solution. We can do it now.
We can start saving money on energy right now. Energy efficiency technology already exists and many people are already realizing the savings and reaping the benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of heating, cooling, and lighting our homes and workplaces could be cut by up to 80 percent or more just by using the "off-the-shelf" technologies available today.
Turning down the thermostat one degree in the winter can save you 3 percent on your electricity bill. Drying clothes on a line or rack can save you $80 in a year, increasing to more than $500 over five years. Replacing 10 regular light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) would net you savings of $92 in one year.
Here in Arizona, I am proud to be part of an innovative strategy with the Just Transition Coalition that is working to help Navajo and Hopi communities create green collar jobs and bring a clean energy future through wind and solar energy development in the wake of the shutdown of the Mohave Generating Station and Black Mesa Coal Mine. Along with the Sierra Club, the Coalition includes the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grand Canyon Trust, the Apollo Alliance, Honor the Earth, To' Nizhoni Ani and others. The Just Transition Coalition is working to find a benefit for tribal communities while creating a clean energy future for the Southwest.
Both Navajo and Hopi Nations contain vast potential for wind and solar development, both for local communities to power homes, schools and community buildings as well as large-scale wind and solar farms that don't deplete drinking water and destroy lands like coal mining.
We have examples that this can happen:
In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell said investments in clean energy have created 3,000 new jobs in the renewable energy sector since 2003.
The city of Denver now saves $218,000 annually after it replaced all traffic lights with LEDs.
A study from the Blue-Green Alliance reports that requiring 20 percent of our country's electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 would create 820,000 jobs across the country.
This Earth Day, learn how we can do it, how others are already changing their energy, cutting costs, making money, and saving the planet, and how to spread the word. Through a Just Transition, we can leave a planet that's safe and clean for the future generations. For more information, go to www.sierraclub.org/partnerships/tribal.
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