Should The Us Move Toward 100% Renewable Energy?

Should the US move toward 100% renewable energy?

The United States should work towards transitioning to 100% renewable energy in order to address the urgent threat of climate change, protect public health through reduced pollution, spur job growth in the clean energy sector, and achieve energy independence. While fossil fuels have powered economic progress for decades, their continued use is incompatible with a sustainable future. Renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal can supply America’s energy needs without the associated greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilizing the global climate. Phasing out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy will also reduce air and water pollution, resulting in lower rates of respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The transition to renewable energy presents a tremendous opportunity to create good-paying jobs installing solar panels, building wind turbines, upgrading transmission lines and maintaining renewable infrastructure. With abundant domestic renewable resources, the U.S. can achieve energy self-sufficiency and insulation from volatile fossil fuel markets. While the shift to 100% renewable energy poses technological and economic challenges, they can be overcome through thoughtful policies, public-private partnerships, and American innovation and determination.

Climate Change Impact

The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas is the leading cause of climate change, accounting for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that transitioning to renewable energy can significantly reduce emissions and help mitigate climate change. Renewables like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower emit little to no greenhouse gases when generating electricity. According to the UN, renewable energy could reduce emissions in the power sector by up to 70-90% by 2050 compared to business-as-usual scenarios.

Shifting away from fossil fuels to clean energy sources is considered one of the most effective strategies for reducing the impacts of climate change. The evidence suggests that increasing renewable energy by just 1% can decrease CO2 emissions by over 1%. Scaling up renewables while phasing out fossil fuel use can help limit global temperature rise and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Health & Environmental Benefits

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower provides significant public health benefits by reducing air pollution. Unlike fossil fuels, renewables produce little to no air or water pollution. According to a Harvard study, renewable electricity projects and energy efficiency measures could improve health and reduce air pollution, saving millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Reduced reliance on fossil fuels improves respiratory health by decreasing asthma attacks, heart attacks, bronchitis cases, and more.

Renewable energy also benefits the environment since it doesn’t release greenhouse gases or other pollutants. The US Department of Energy states that clean energy from renewable sources makes the air safer to breathe, leading to better health. Overall, transitioning to renewable energy provides substantial public health and environmental advantages.

Job Creation

The renewable energy sector creates far more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. According to a 2021 report by the Department of Energy, there are over 3 million jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States, outnumbering fossil fuel jobs by 5 to 1. Clean Energy Jobs.

Many more jobs are created installing solar panels or building wind turbines compared to jobs maintaining legacy fossil fuel infrastructure. The skilled labor needed to construct renewable power facilities provides well-paying jobs that cannot be automated or outsourced. For example, jobs in solar alone grew 167% over the past 5 years. The energy transition creates employment opportunities for electricians, metal fabricators, engineers, construction workers, and many other trades. Renewable Energy Jobs on LinkedIn.

Energy Independence

Switching to 100% renewable energy would significantly boost U.S. energy independence. The U.S. currently imports about 7.86 million barrels of petroleum per day from foreign countries, accounting for about 24% of total U.S. energy consumption (https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/us-energy-facts/imports-and-exports.php). By increasing domestic renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, hydropower and other sources, the U.S. could become self-reliant and no longer need to rely on imported fossil fuels. Energy independence improves national security by reducing vulnerability to global oil market fluctuations and supply disruptions. As stated by the Department of Energy, “The United States can achieve energy independence and security by using renewable power; improving the energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles, appliances…” (https://www.energy.gov/eere/energy-independence-and-security). Renewable energy resources exist in abundance domestically and would free the U.S. from depending on other nations for a significant portion of its energy needs.

Grid Reliability

Transitioning to 100% renewable energy will require upgrading power grids and investing in energy storage to balance supply and demand. Some critics argue that renewables like wind and solar are too intermittent to maintain grid reliability without fossil fuel backups. However, studies show that reliability depends on the whole electricity system, not individual resources. With the right investments and technologies, renewables can provide adequate and stable energy.

Upgrading transmission lines, using demand response technology, and installing energy storage can help integrate higher levels of renewables while maintaining reliability. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy, regions like California and Texas have successfully managed high renewable penetration without reliability issues by using grid flexibility solutions.

New smart grid technologies can also help integrate renewables through better monitoring, automation, and communication between utilities and customers (Source). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission states that reliability depends on adequate infrastructure planning, system operations, and competitive electricity markets to bring the right mix of resources online.

While transitioning to 100% renewable energy poses grid challenges, studies show these can be addressed through infrastructure upgrades, new technologies, and proper planning. With the right policies and investments, renewables can provide reliable electricity to meet demand.

Cost Comparisons

The costs of renewable energy like solar and wind have declined rapidly in the past decade, becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels even without subsidies. According to IRENA, between 2010 and 2022, the global weighted average levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from solar PV declined by 85% and wind by 55%. Renewables are now cheaper than the cheapest new coal plants.

However, fossil fuels still receive far more in federal subsidies compared to renewables. A recent analysis by the Energy Innovation Policy & Technology LLC found that fossil fuels received about 70% of federal energy subsidies in 2016-2018 ($14.7 billion on average per year), while renewables received about 27% ($7.3 billion). Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and redirecting them to renewable energy development could accelerate the transition.

Public Opinion

According to a 2023 Pew Research report, 82% of Americans favor more solar panel farms and 75% favor more wind turbine farms. Most Americans also prioritize developing renewable energy sources over expanding fossil fuel production, with 69% favoring renewables. This aligns with another Pew report from 2022 that found 69% of U.S. adults support the country becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

At the state and local level, policies are trending towards more renewable energy. According to Axios, over 280 cities across America have committed to 100% renewable energy targets. At least 24 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have adopted renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to get a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewables. An Axios-Harris poll found 72% of registered voters think the federal government should encourage more wind and solar energy.

Challenges & Solutions

The transition to 100% renewable energy faces several key challenges that require thoughtful solutions.

One major challenge is the intermittent nature of renewables like solar and wind, which require energy storage solutions. As the IMF reports, “Solar and wind are intermittent sources of power generation, so massive investments in storage solutions and stronger grids are required to accommodate their increasing share in the energy mix” (https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/fandd/issues/2022/12/bumps-in-the-energy-transition-yergin). Developing large-scale batteries and other storage technologies can help overcome this obstacle.

Upgrading infrastructure is another key challenge per the Wilson Center: “Existing transmission infrastructure would need major upgrades to handle the increase in renewable power” (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/promise-and-pitfalls-clean-energy-transition). Significant investments are required for modernized smart grids and transmission lines to support the transition.

Additionally, policies and regulations must align to enable the transition as Bank of America notes: “The policy environment needs to support the economics of the transition through carbon pricing mechanisms and incentives for renewable energy” (https://business.bofa.com/en-us/content/challenges-to-renewable-energy-transition.html). Governments play a key role through supportive laws, tax credits, permitting, and other measures.

Conclusion

As we’ve explored, there is a clear need for the US to accelerate its transition to 100% renewable energy. The climate crisis demands swift action to curb carbon emissions and prevent catastrophic global warming. At the same time, renewable energy offers tremendous public health, environmental, economic and security benefits. Wind, solar and other renewables are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels and have proven their ability to reliably power grids. With the right policies, clean energy can create millions of jobs and allow the US to gain energy independence.

There are certainly challenges to overcome in this transition, whether technical, political or economic. But none are insurmountable. With technological improvements, supportive policies and public engagement, a 100% renewable future is within reach. The environmental and social imperatives of addressing climate change mean we cannot afford inaction or delay. The solutions lie before us. Now is the time for policymakers, businesses and citizens to join together to fully embrace renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels. The health of current and future generations hangs in the balance.

The evidence shows the quicker we can shift to wind, solar and other clean sources, the more livable our planet will remain. There is no time to waste in seizing this opportunity.

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