As your advisor on energy policy, I believe it is important to inform you on the current status of global warming and of the energy crisis. I would also like to suggest changes in the current energy policy.
Global warming can no longer be given a blind eye. Long-term observations in the last century or so reveal that the U.S. climate is changing rapidly. According to the National Assessment Synthesis Team’s U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2000, the average national temperature has risen by 1*F and precipitation has increased 5-10%. Although these trends have been more apparent in recent years, the projected warming for the 21st century is significantly higher. The increased temperatures are also very likely to be accompanied with “more extreme precipitation and faster evaporation of water”. Today we see evidence of global warming via shrinkage of glaciers, thawing of permafrost, earlier melting and later freezing of ice on lakes and river, and shifts in plant and animal systems.
Models only showing temperature fluctuations of the last 150 years or so appear to show that the current increase in temperature is due to natural trends. However, data from the last 1,000 years (from tree rings, corals, ice cores, and historical records) show a
tremendous spike in temperature increase- starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution (alas, the rise of burning fossil fuels).
While all these facts are true, the main evidence linking humans to global warming is in the models. Exponential rise in surface temperatures is not a natural trend, despite models of all climate factors, the only way to produce the rate of warming we are seeing now is through unnatural causes. A rise in anthropogenic CO2 (that is, carbon dioxide produced by human activities) over the years is the only plausible explanation for the high concentration of greenhouse gases today. And although we could stop burning fossil fuels today, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would not decrease for decades because the CO2 molecules linger in the atomosphere.
There is growing evidence supporting global warming and its [potential] negative effects on vulnerable human and natural resource systems. Natural systems are vulnerable to climate change, and some systems may be irreversibly damaged. Change in climate in some natural systems- such as coral reefs, tropical forests, wetlands, polar ecosystems, etc. – will lead to their extinction and, ultimately, loss of biodiversity in the natural world. And this is due to climate change only. Improper land-use and pollution also affect these fragile systems.
According to the U.S. Assessment, alterations in natural systems due to climate change could possibly result in negative consequences for our economy which, in part, depends on our nation’s bountiful lands, waters, and native plant and animal communities. One system affected by global warming in the U.S. is the coastal wetlands, including the recently devastated Gulf Coast region. The southeast is home to more than half of the nation’s remaining wetlands. Salt water intrusion due to rising sea levels and increases in violent tropical storms, along with human destruction, are major causes in the loss of wetlands. These wetlands not only play a vital role in helping protect coastal cities from storm surges, but also provide habitats and nurseries for many fish species. Therefore agriculture systems (fisheries), which make up a large part of the region’s economy, are vulnerable to climate change.
Also to be affected by global warming are the nation’s glacial and mountain regions (such as Alaska and Colorado). Reduction in snowpack- which affects the timing and flow of water in these regions- due to climate change could easily lead to water conflicts and shortages. Furthermore, many of the cities’ economies in Colorado (and other states in the Rocky Mountain region) depend entirely on the area’s snowfall to attract tourists.
It is estimated that the United States has already used ½ of its own oil resources. Many of the middle-east countries we buy our oil from will be approaching their peak production soon. It’s not that the world is running out of all oil, but that the world is running out of the cheap oil that we use for fuel today. The discovery of new oil fields and the drilling of reserves would only delay this peak by about 20 years or so. For the U.S., total drilling of all of Alaska’s oil reserves would only sustain our country for a little over one year. Reports that the U.S. has enough oil and coal to last us hundreds of years do not take account to the historical growth rate of 4% of our country. Therefore, Mr. President, there is a rising energy crisis that cannot be ignored.
Concerns about the effects of global warming, along with the energy crisis, call for a change in the U.S. Energy policy.
My first suggested plan is to inform the public immediately about global warming and the energy crisis. Any action by the government to educate the public on how to conserve energy and protect the resources we have would be well worth the effort. I would suggest making resources available for citizens to learn about conserving energy on an individual level. Also, incorporating Environmental Science as a required high school curriculum class might encourage the younger generation to take better care of our environment.
Action needs to start on the local level. I would next suggest placing regulations on the energy efficiency of new buildings, both home and commercial. One of the best ways to cut back energy use immediately is to install efficient lighting in buildings. All government buildings should be required to use compact fluorescent or LED lighting systems. Furthermore, all cities should replace their traffic lights and signs with LED lights.
Although the initial cost of purchasing and installing these lighting systems is high, they last at least 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and use approximately 60% less energy. One helpful statistic to keep in mind: If every household in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star certified compact fluorescent light bulb, it would save enough energy and reduce pollution equal to getting 1,000,000 cars off the road.
Next, I would set emission standards on all existing commercial vehicles. Businesses are not willing to spend the money themselves, however. The government is going to have to spend money in order to save fuel and, in the long-run, help the economy. By providing the money and labor to repair and upgrade currently used commercial vehicles, we can make sure the standards are met. And although this would take a certain amount of money to begin with, the money these companies and individuals save by not consuming/wasting as much fuel would go back into the economy; which, in the long run, would pay for itself.
Furthermore, the government should mandate efficiency standards on all new motorized vehicles. America won’t quit using oil, but making today’s vehicles more efficient would decrease wasteful use of oil. The government could also set initiatives for the public to buy energy-efficient hybrid cars (such as the Toyota Prius). The main reason people today are not buying these hybrid cars is because they are not aware of an energy crisis. My suggested plan of action concerning new cars is this: Increase the public awareness of the energy crisis, help fund advertisement of more efficient cars, and set up tax rebates after purchase of designated efficient cars. With this help by the government, we can get more efficient cars on America’s roads and conserve more energy.
Finally, the government should spend much more money on research toward the development of new energy sources. Although some may believe spending money on new energy sources would be bad for the economy, I think just the opposite. Lamar, Colorado, is the perfect example of how incorporating a windfarm as a source of energy for a small town helped boost the economy in the area.
During the construction of a 162-megawatt windfarm in 2003, nearly 400 workers filled the town’s restaurants and motels, providing a substantial economic boost to the town of Lamar and its business community. The revenues from this project increased the county tax base 26 percent in 204, providing funding for schools, hospitals, social services, and other functions. Also, the project left 14 permanent, full-time jobs in the community and many other part-time jobs. Therefore, I would certainly suggest putting money into renewable energy efforts such as these.
I would also suggest development of a few more nuclear power plants. Nuclear power was once high at public concern (and perhaps still is), however the technology we have nowadays for construction and management of power plants far supersedes that of the past. I suggest construction of only a few because of nuclear waste disposal concerns, to be better settled in the future. Right now, however, we need more of cleaner-burning power plants in order to decrease the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Lastly, setting efficiency standards of existing power plants- especially coal-burning power plants- would conserve natural resources and result in cleaner-burning plants. Many of the pipelines and infrastructure of these plants are very old and in serious need of renovation.