Clean energy is sweeping across America and is poised for more dramatic growth in the coming years. Wind turbines and solar panels made up a tiny fraction of our energy infrastructure 10 years ago. Today, they are everyday parts of America’s energy landscape. The number of homes heated with clean, efficient electric heat pumps increased by 28% in a decade from 2005 to 2015. Just a few years ago, electric vehicles seemed a far-off solution to decarbonize our transportation system. Now, they have broken through to the mass market. Virtually every day, there are new developments that increase our ability to produce renewable energy, apply it to a wider range of energy needs, and reduce our overall energy use. These developments enable us to envision an economy powered entirely by clean, renewable energy.
Local governments have an important role to play in making clean transportation a reality. Every day, local governments make decisions about municipal purchasing, the use of public streets and parking garages, planning and zoning, and other issues that can either make it easier or more difficult for their residents to own an EV. By using a set of key tools to encourage EV adoption, local governments can help clean up the air in their communities and take meaningful action against global warming.
More than one in six Americans, 58.4 million people, suffered through more than 100 days of elevated air pollution in 2020. Our report calls attention to the very real public health problems air pollution causes in both cities and rural areas across the country, such as asthma, heart issues, and premature death. It explains how global warming will make air pollution worse, and why tackling climate pollution has an impact on air quality.
Solar power is cheaper, more efficient and more abundant than ever before. Over the past decade, the amount of solar energy produced in the United States has increased 30-fold, while the average cost of a residential solar energy system has fallen by more than half. The American public is increasingly supportive of solar energy. By 2020, according to Pew Research, 79% of Americans – a broad majority – believed that developing non-fossil fuel energy sources, including solar and wind power, should be the country’s top energy priority.
It is time for America to move beyond fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas are responsible for a rapidly warming planet, for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year from air pollution, and for untold environmental damage. A shift to emission-free energy from the wind, sun and other renewable sources can solve many of America’s most pressing environmental and public health challenges.
Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.