Rapidly rising gas prices across the country are shining a spotlight on the dire consequences of America’s dependence on oil. Our continued use of oil puts our environment, our health, and our national security at risk, and with prices across the country exceeding $4 per gallon, it is putting an incredible burden on our economy and on American families.
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.
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