America’s homes are like cars that only get 10 miles to the gallon. Buildings consume 40 percent of America’s energy, and much of that energy is literally flying out the window rather than heating or cooling our homes and businesses. What’s worse, energy-wasting buildings are responsible for nearly half of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Dirty energy pollutes the air we breathe, threatening our health and our environment.
When power plants burn coal, oil or gas, they create the ingredients for ground-level ozone pollution, one of the main components of “smog” pollution. Especially on hot summer days, across wide areas of the United States, ozone pollution reaches levels that are unhealthy to breathe, putting our lives at risk. In 2009, U.S. power plants emitted more than 1.9 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution into the air.
In order to better protect public health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should issue a new air quality standard to reduce ground-level ozone pollution. To achieve these reductions in pollution, the United States should increase pollution control technologies for power plants and accelerate the transition to clean electricity sources, including wind and solar power. In addition, the United States should reduce ozone-forming pollution from mobile sources.
The United States should take aggressive steps to encourage the installation of solar water heaters on homes and businesses and to promote other solar water heating technologies that can make an even bigger dent in our consumption of fossil fuels.
Our dependence on oil and coal-fired power plants has broad detrimental impacts on our health and our environment. Power plants represent America’s single biggest source of air pollution, affecting our waterways, destroying ecosystems, and polluting the air we breathe. Pollution from coal-fired power plants in particular contributes to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory diseases.
Pollution from agribusiness is responsible for some of America’s most intractable water quality problems – including the “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie, and the pollution of countless streams and lakes with nutrients, bacteria, sediment and pesticides.
Farming is not an inherently polluting activity. But today’s agribusiness practices – from the concentration of thousands of animals and their waste in small feedlots to the massive planting of chemical-intensive crops such as corn – make water pollution from agribusiness both much more likely and much more dangerous.
The shift to massive corporate agribusiness operations is no accident. It is largely the result of decisions made in the boardrooms of some of the world’s largest corporations. When it comes to agricultural pollution of America’s waterways, therefore, the problem begins at the top. Major agribusiness firms are directly or indirectly responsible for the degradation of many American waterways, and must be held accountable for stopping that pollution and cleaning up the mess.