Energy and climate change issues are some of the most formidable problems facing this generation, but Democrats understand, and our nation’s history demonstrates, that America can meet them. The challenges posed by U.S. energy policies will require that America create an energy policy that prioritizes energy independence, cleaner air, and job creation, and puts America into a position of leadership in the global clean energy economy.
Luckily, America possesses bountiful clean renewable energy resources that will be critical in meeting the nation’s energy and climate challenges. As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues, it is also important to note that the widespread deployment of the nation’s clean renewable energy resources will also help to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil. In the coming weeks, the Senate may have the opportunity to consider legislation that would help to meet the energy and climate challenges that Democrats have long sought to address. The following information provides information on some of the most pressing reasons why America needs to address energy and climate challenges.
America’s Oil Dependence
America’s oil dependence presents multifaceted energy and climate challenges to the United States. To begin, in 2008, the United States consumed approximately 19.5 million barrels of oil per day. The amount of oil consumed by the nation’s transportation sector totaled 4.98 billion barrels of oil in 2008, which is an increase of 25 percent since 1990. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources have increased by 22 percent between 1990 and 2008 and carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum consumption have increased by 11 percent since 1990.
The nation’s consumption of oil has a number of consequences but few are as consequential as its impact on America’s national security. In 2008, the United States consumed approximately 19.5 million barrels of oil per day and 57 percent of that oil (11 million barrels) came from overseas and the cost of importing this oil totaled close to $440 billion. These totals are important because the United States imported oil from seven of the countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iraq, and Algeria) that are currently listed by the U.S. State Department on its Travel Warning List as having “long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable.” The opportunity to lessen America’s dependence on oil could be accomplished through energy and climate legislation which emphasizes reductions in the transportation’s sector consumption of oil.
Clean Energy Deployment and Competiveness
America is blessed with some of the world’s most abundant clean energy resources and, through legislation like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act we have been taking steps to ensure that greater benefit of those resources is realized. However, without energy and climate legislation America risks falling behind countries that are also aggressively supporting clean energy. For instance, while the United States broke all previous records by installing over 10,000 megawatts of new wind energy in 2009 the number of new wind energy manufacturing plants decreased to 39 (from 58 in 2008) because the U.S. market for wind energy needs the type of long-term market certainty that energy and climate legislation can provide.
The United States also risks falling behind in the race to become the global leader in solar energy. The nation’s solar electric capacity from photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies climbed past 2,000 MW, enough to serve more than 350,000 homes. However, China is now home to the world’s leading solar cell manufacturer, one-third of the globe’s solar-energy manufacturing capacity, and in 2009 Germany, Italy, and Japan all installed more solar capacity than the United States.
In 2008, ChevronTexaco imported nearly half of its oil from countries defined by the U.S. State Department as “dangerous or unstable.” In addition, ExxonMobil imported close to 43 percent of its oil from those “dangerous or unstable” countries and BP had about 33 percent of its imports come from those types of countries. The enactment of energy and climate legislation would help to support corporate citizenship because it would incentivize clean energy production which will simultaneously improve U.S. national security and reduce the nation’s demand for oil.