Energy for the 99 Percent  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Center For American Progress has a look at the subsidies directed to the fossil fuel industry in the US and possible alternative futures - Energy for the 99 Percent.

The Occupy Wall Street protests are focusing Americans’ attention on the fact that power is increasingly consolidated into the hands of very few individuals and corporations. This is especially true in the energy sector. Two weeks ago the country’s five largest oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—released their third-quarter profits and once again revealed that high gas prices are bad for consumers but great for Big Oil, which pulled in a staggering $101 billion in profits during the first nine months of 2011.

Today Washington politicians publicly bicker over renewable energy credit programs that will only cost taxpayers $2.5 billion while the oil-and-gas industry quietly pulls in $7 billion in annual subsidies. But even that is not enough for Big Oil. These companies are now lobbying hard for even more federal government support, for even more of the public’s waters and lands to be opened up for drilling rigs or pipelines, and for even fewer health and safety standards to govern those projects.

At the same time, those of us who pay the taxes that subsidize Big Oil—call us the 99 percent, though in reality we’re more like the 99.99 percent—must continue paying out precious dollars at the pump and must suffer from the ill-health effects of fossil-fuel pollution because we have very little choice in how we power, or fuel, our lives.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to choose a brighter, more equitable, more sustainable future.

What could that future look like? Fast forward to America in 2030. Picture rolling up to the gas pump and having a choice of a petroleum product or a bio-based one, maybe from algae or switchgrass—or instead just plugging your electric or hybrid vehicle into the fast-charging electrical outlet located nearby. In 2030 conventional cars and light trucks will average at least 54.5 miles per gallon, saving our nation the expense of importing 2.2 million barrels of oil per day.

Picture an America where you don’t have to drive at all because buses, trains, and light rail systems are convenient and accessible. Bike lanes are no longer a luxury of certain coastal cities but are the norm along heavily trafficked commuter corridors. And cities are designed to allow workers to live much closer to their jobs, avoiding long commutes altogether.

Picture an America where at least half of our electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar, wave, and geothermal. Sound impossible? It’s not. Other countries, especially in Europe, are already on track to get there. Germany has set a goal of 45 percent renewable energy by 2030 and Denmark is hoping to be completely fossil-fuel free by then.

In 2030 Americans could have the choice of whether to buy power from big utility producers or instead to install household or community-scale energy systems themselves—systems that allow excess power to be sold back into the grid, making the consumers the owners of America’s energy system. We could have a smarter grid, where home appliances and even plug-in electric cars could “talk back” to power distribution centers, which would distribute power more efficiently and effectively across the entire system and avoid costly blackouts. We could see homes built and renovated to efficiency standards that allow consumers to use far less electricity, for far less money, than they do today.

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