Clean energy is sweeping across America and is poised for more dramatic growth in the coming years. Wind turbines and solar panels were novelties ten years ago; today, they are everyday parts of America’s energy landscape. Energy-saving LED light bulbs cost $40 apiece as recently as 2010; today, they cost a few dollars at the hardware store. Just a few years ago, electric vehicles seemed a far-off solution to decarbonize our transportation system; now, they have broken through to the mass market. Virtually every day, there are new developments that increase our ability to produce renewable energy, apply renewable energy more widely and flexibly to meet a wide range of energy needs, and reduce our overall energy use – developments that enable us to envision an economy powered entirely with clean, renewable energy.
An analysis of bacteria sampling data from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico reveals that 2,580 beach sites – more than half of all sites tested – were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day in 2018, and 546 sites were potentially unsafe at least 25 percent of the days that sampling took place. Sites were considered potentially unsafe if bacteria levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most protective “Beach Action Value” thresholds, which the EPA suggests states use as a “conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions,” and are associated with an estimated illness rate of 32 per 1,000 swimmers. (Many states use other thresholds for beach closure and advisory decisions. Therefore, results presented in this report may differ from state reports on beach water quality.) (See Methodology for details.)
Solar power is expanding rapidly. The United States now has over 60 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed – enough to power nearly one in every 11 homes in America. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them. America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. As population centers, they are major sources of electricity demand and, with millions of rooftops suitable for solar panels, they have the potential to be major sources of clean energy production as well.
Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day. Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country. As our report shows, states are failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school. Instead of waiting for more testing, we need to proactively remove the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.
As faculty and staff concerned about the warming of the earth that is changing our climate, we urge our nation's universities to make a rapid and steady shift away fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need nothing less than a commitment to meeting all our energy needs with abundant, pollution-free renewable energy by no later than 2050.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.