It is a myth that switching to safe, renewable energy would mean an unreliable U.S. power supply that also is too expensive to afford, according to a new study prepared for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI). “Toward a Sustainable Future for the U.S. Power Sector: Beyond Business as Usual 2011” outlines a realistic transition to a cleaner energy future that would reportedly result in a net savings of $83 billion over the next 40 years. The report also includes other major benefits, including the avoidance of tens of thousands of premature deaths due to pollution; the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs; sharp cuts in carbon pollution; and significant cuts in water consumption for power production.
The new findings are particularly significant in view of the fact that a strong majority of Americans want the U.S. to make the investments needed to be a clean energy leader on a global basis. More than three in four Americans (77%)-including 65% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, 88% of Democrats, and 56% of Tea Party members-agree with the statement that “The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.”
Key highlights of the new Synapse/CSI report include the following:
- Due in part to a significantly increased emphasis on energy efficiency, power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020 would fall 25% below 2010 levels; by 2050, such pollution would be 81% below 2010 levels. Under status quo trends, CO2 emissions would grow 28% from current levels by 2050.
- The steep health and environmental (including water use) impacts of coal-fired electricity would be dramatically reduced and, by 2050, eliminated when all such facilities are retired. For example, over 50,000 premature deaths are avoided relative to status quo trends linked to pollution from coal-fired plants.
- The construction and operation of the new power plants in the first decade would create roughly 3.1 million new job-years-the equivalent of 310,000 people employed for the entire decade.
“U.S. policymakers and others who assume that a safe, renewable energy future-including an end to reliance on coal-fired electric power and a sharply reduced reliance on nuclear power and natural gas-is impractical and too expensive for the U.S. to achieve are wrong,” said Pam Solo, president of the CSI. “The truth is that America can and should embrace a workable and cost-effective future that is built on safe, renewable energy. Not only is it feasible and less expensive to do so, but we really have no other choice as a nation, given the concerns about coal emissions, natural gas ‘fracking,’ and nuclear reactor safety.”
For more information, visit www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org/synapsereport