“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
-- Sir Robert Swan
Too much of America’s energy – 81%, in fact -- continues to come from fossil fuels that pollute our air and water, causing global warming, climate change and weather disruption more intense with each passing year. This is not just unfortunate, or even critical; it is a clear and present danger to the future not only of our country but to life on earth.
Our reliance on oil makes us dependent on energy supplies from other countries, particularly in the Middle East. It constantly draws us into military adventures to defend access to oil (and the profits it yields for the big oil companies), usually under the pretense of “defending our freedoms.”
The fossil fuel industry has turned to fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a method to extract natural gas from deep within the earth, in order to expand supply. But its rapid growth in the U.S. has generated major concerns: the process requires huge amounts of water to be transported to the fracking site at significant environmental costs; potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking can escape and contaminate groundwater; the process is also known to cause earthquakes. In addition, environmentalists contend it encourages continued reliance on fossil fuels instead of investments in renewable energy. On February 28, 2014 the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to impose a moratorium of fracking until it is proven safe, making it the largest city in the country to do so. I share their concern and heartily commend the Council for its action.
As the result of energy industry lobbying and campaign contributions, the federal government supports the use of fossil fuels by handing out massive tax breaks and subsidies to companies that are already among the most profitable in the world. The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2001 through 2011, yet they receive $10-52 billion in tax breaks and subsidies each and every year.
Corruption, both legalized and unvarnished, make it almost extremely difficulty to take on the power of Exxon-Mobil and other energy producer giants that buy politicians and regulators, and lobby themselves massive tax breaks from the government. Once again, until we deal with the issue of money’s powerful influence on our political system, none of this will truly change.
Technological innovation has developed increasingly affordable energy from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, water, biofuels, and geothermal power. The U.S. government should expand investments in clean, green energy, that can lower costs for all of our homes and businesses, as well as improve public health.
Transitioning to clean, green energy is one of the great moral challenges of our time. In fact, we can save half the oil we use through improved efficiency and get the other half from renewable energy sources. Making this fundamental change in how we as a nation use energy is not something that any one set of legislative actions can manage; rather, this shift will take a change in how all of us -- not only government, but also individuals -- treat the earth on which we live.
I see no need whatsoever for the domestic use of nuclear energy. Since the Fukushima disaster (which is far from resolved and poses an ongoing threat), we have seen the tragic consequences of thinking that just because something was made by the likes of General Electric – the same company that makes our own nuclear generators – that we need not worry about catastrophes due to human error or natural disasters like tidal waves and earthquakes. If anyone should stand for that realization, it’s Californians! And most importantly, we do not need nuclear energy to fulfill our energy needs. Given that it provides only 9% of our energy, that need can be met with investment in green technology . As an American and as a mother, I strongly reject the notion that the domestic use of nuclear energy is “worth the risk.”