We Need an Energy Revolution

United States today spends some $400 billion a year importing oil from
countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela.
Think for a moment what an incredible impact that same $400 billion a
year could have on our country if that money were invested here and not
abroad, in such areas as weatherization, energy efficiency, sustainable
energies like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, public transportation and automobiles that are energy efficient or don't use fossil fuels at all.

What we are talking about is an energy revolution
that leads us toward energy independence, the cessation of support for
foreign dictatorships and the ability to avoid Mideast wars fought over
oil. What we are talking about is an energy revolution that will
substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable us to address
the global warming crisis that threatens our planet with increases in
floods, drought, extreme weather conditions, disease and wars fought
over limited natural resources. What we are talking about is an energy
revolution that will result in cleaner air, water and food and make us
a healthier nation.

And, as our nation struggles to recover from the worst economic times
since the Great Depression, what we also are talking about is an energy
revolution that has the capability of creating millions of good-paying green jobs.

These are jobs that will occur at every level of education and for
every skill set. These are jobs for scientists, engineers, machinists,
and electricians. These are jobs for workers who weatherize older homes
and buildings and save consumers substantial sums on their fuel bills.
These are jobs for factory workers who produce advanced insulation
material, energy-efficient windows, improved roofing materials and LED
light bulbs. These are jobs that build, distribute, install and
maintain wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, solar hot water systems,
geothermal heating and cooling systems, and biomass heating systems.
These are jobs on our farms and in our forests producing biofuels and
converting farm waste to electricity.

I see a future where, by 2025, we are producing a quarter or more of
our electricity from clean, sustainable energy sources. I see a
revitalized American manufacturing base where instead of importing 90
percent of the batteries used in hybrid vehicles, 46 percent of solar photovoltaic
cells and modules, and half of all wind turbines used in the U.S.,
those product are made right here at home. I see a future where
American companies lead the world in the production of hybrid-plug in
cars and electric vehicles.

I see a future where instead of creating 330 jobs to build yet
another fossil-fuel power plant, we create 4,000 jobs building a solar
thermal plant that has no carbon dioxide emissions and does not pollute
our air because the only fuel is endlessly renewed, no-cost sunlight.
These plants, according to the Interior Department secretary, could
provide up to 29 percent of the electrical needs of our country.

I see a future where, by 2020, our nation follows the example of a
state like Vermont, which, in the last two years, has seen electricity
demand lowered because of energy efficiency
efforts. Investing in energy efficiency is cost-effective; it saves 3
cents per kilowatt hour compared to the 14 cents it costs to generate
the same amount of power.

I see a future where states compete with one another to see which
can be the most efficient, and where businesses seek out efficient
states in which to locate so they can reap the economic and
environmental benefits for their businesses and employees.

I see a future where getting to work, or to school, or to the store
does not have to cause pollution. I see a future where plug-in hybrid
cars and electric vehicles are commonplace, producing a fraction of the
emissions of conventional vehicles while providing the same mobility
for drivers.

I see a future where we rebuild our mass transportation and rail
systems. For every $1 billion we invest in public transportation, we
create 30,000 jobs, save thousands of dollars a year for each commuter,
and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The bad news is that if we do not act boldly to address the global
warming crisis, the consequences for our planet and future generations
will be dire. The good news is that we have the knowledge and
technology today, which will only improve in the future, to address
that crisis. Yes, we can dramatically cut greenhouse gas emission. Yes,
we can create an energy independent nation. Yes, we can create millions
of good paying green jobs in the process. Let's do it!

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is chairman of the Green Jobs
and the New Economy Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee.

To follow the energy and climate change debate in the Senate, join the senator's Bernie Buzz newsletter here.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.