Report | Environment New Mexico Research and Policy Center

Wasting Our Waterways

Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act

Report | Environment New Mexico

Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving

America’s dependence on oil threatens our environment, our economy, and our national security. Whether it is the scars left by the oil spills in the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo rivers and the Gulf of Mexico, the $1 billion that American families and businesses send overseas every day for oil, or the nearly 2 billion metric tons of global warming pollution emitted annually which fuels more and more extreme weather, these problems demand that we break our dependence on oil.

 

The U.S. consumes more than 19 million barrels of oil each day. Nearly two-thirds of that is consumed by the transportation sector, with the largest percentage being consumed by passenger cars and light duty trucks, such as SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks. All of this oil consumption produces air pollution that causes global warming. 

 

We can cut our oil use and reduce this dangerous pollution by requiring automobile manufacturers to meet stronger global warming pollution and fuel efficiency standards. Adopting the strong fuel efficiency standards under consideration now is our nation’s greatest opportunity right now to cut America’s oil consumption, reduce global warming pollution from the transportation sector, and deliver important economic benefits to both consumers and businesses—including saving Americans billions of dollars at the pump.

 

The week of Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, when many Americans are hit hard by the economic pain of our dependence on oil. While not everyone will be traveling over the river and through the woods, Americans will drive to Thanksgiving dinners all across the country in cars that gobble up too much gas at the
pump, generating global warming pollution that threatens our environment while also unnecessarily emptying our wallets. With over 38 million people driving to visit family and friends on trips of at least 50 miles, Americans are expected to spend $552 million at the gas pump this Thanksgiving holiday. However, if the average passenger vehicle met a 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) standard instead of the current 26.4 mpg standard, Americans would save $260 million at the gas pump on Thanksgiving travel this year and cut gasoline consumption by 75 million gallons—more than 4 times the amount of oil we imported from Saudi Arabia last year. In addition, global warming pollution emissions from the average car or light truck would be cut by 47%. The typical American family traveling this Thanksgiving would save $14.90, enough money to bring a few extra pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving dinner. While families in all 50 states would experience roughly the same savings, California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois would see the largest overall consumer savings and the largest reductions in gasoline consumption.

 

We already have cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars in dealer showrooms and on the road, and American ingenuity has provided the technology to make the nation’s entire vehicle fleet much cleaner and more fuelefficient. Several technologies are already being used to make conventional internal combustion engine vehicles that are more fuel efficient and create less global warming pollution.

 

Recognizing the problems posed by our dependence on oil—and the available solutions— the Obama administration has proposed new fuel efficiency and global
warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks from 2017-2025. These standards were developed with the support of 13 major automobile manufacturers and the United Auto Workers, and earned praise from the environmental community as well as many consumer groups. By requiring the average car and light truck to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, the standards would save Americans nearly $45 billion at the gas pump each year and cut our annual oil consumption by 23 billion gallons— equivalent to our annual imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

 

America has the technology and the workforce ready and willing to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars that help break our dependence on oil. Ending this dependence will reap enormous benefits for our environment and our economy. The Obama administration should move clean cars into the fast lane by keeping the 2017-2025 clean car standards free of loopholes, and ensuring that new cars and light trucks achieve a standard of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Report | Environment America

National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce

The National Solar Jobs Census 2011 updates last year’s census of employment and annual projected growth in the United States solar industry with new data from a statistically valid sampling of employers throughout the nation.  The rapid pace of change in the industry has warranted annual updates that examine the size and scope of the industry.

Report | Environment America

National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce

The National Solar Jobs Census 2011 updates last year’s census of employment and annual projected growth in the United States solar industry with new data from a statistically valid sampling of employers throughout the nation.  The rapid pace of change in the industry has warranted annual updates that examine the size and scope of the industry.

Report | Environment New Mexico

Dirty Energy's Assault on Our Health: Ozone Pollution

Dirty energy pollutes the air we breathe, threatening our health and our environment.

 

When power plants burn coal, oil or gas, they create the ingredients for ground-level ozone pollution, one of the main components of “smog” pollution. Especially on hot summer days, across wide areas of the United States, ozone pollution reaches levels that are unhealthy to breathe, putting our lives at risk. In 2009, U.S. power plants emitted more than 1.9 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution into the air.

 

In order to better protect public health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should issue a new air quality standard to reduce ground-level ozone pollution. To achieve these reductions in pollution, the United States should increase pollution control technologies for power plants and accelerate the transition to clean electricity sources, including wind and solar power. In addition, the United States should reduce ozone-forming pollution from mobile sources.


Emissions from power plants contribute to widespread ozone pollution in the United States.

- More than half of the people in the United States -56 percent- live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone.

- Power plants emitted 1,927,569.3 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution, a key precursor to ozone pollution, into the environment in 2009.

- Emissions from power plants in just eleven states account for 50 percent of the total nitrogen oxide pollution emitted by power plants into our environment. See ES Figure 1 for the top 15 most polluting states.


Ground-level ozone pollution puts our health at risk.

- Repeated exposure to ozone can cause permanent lung damage and can even kill. According to a RAND Corporation health study, in California alone, high levels of ozone pollution contributed to nearly 30,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and $193 million in hospital medical care from 2005 to 2007.

- Children and adults suffer more asthma attacks and increased respiratory difficulty when exposed to ozone pollution.

- Approximately 3.9 million children and more than 10.7 million adults with asthma live in regions with very high levels of ozone pollution. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 5,000 asthma-related deaths occur each year in the U.S.

- Children are particularly vulnerable. Children who grow up in areas with high levels of ozone pollution may develop diminished lung capacity, putting them at greater risk of lung disease later in life.

- Ozone exposure can impact prenatal health, with research finding that in-utero exposure to ozone is associated with lower birth weight and intrauterine growth retardation.


Emission controls are helping to reduce health-threatening, ozone-forming pollution from power plants.

- In the last five years, thanks to standards set by EPA, coal-fired power plants achieved reductions in their emissions of nitrogen oxides by an average of 74 percent.

- Overall electric-sector nitrogen oxide pollution has dropped by almost half without noticeably affecting electricity prices or the reliability of the power system.


However, federal standards for ground-level ozone are not sufficiently protective of public health and power plant emissions are still too high.

- Research shows that the current 8-hour ground-level ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) set in March 2008 under the Bush administration actually leaves millions at risk.

- EPA analysts project that a standard in the range of 60-70 ppb would prevent as many as 12,000 premature deaths per year from heart or lung diseases, along with thousands of cases of bronchitis, asthma and nonfatal heart attacks.


More action is necessary to protect our health and environment from ground-level ozone pollution.

- To protect our health and our environment, EPA should establish a National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone of no higher than 60 parts per billion.

- Power plants should continue to implement more advanced emission control technologies like selective catalytic reduction systems to reduce ozone-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, and ultimately help areas meet the EPA air quality standard.

- Additionally, to help reduce pollution, state and federal governments should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy. Important steps include:

1. Establishing or increasing renewable electricity standards to ensure that at least 25 percent of U.S. electricity comes from renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar by 2025;
Strengthening energy efficiency standards and codes for appliances, and requiring all new buildings use zero net energy by 2030;

2. Ramping up investment in solar power through tax credits, specific solar generation targets in state renewable electricity standards, requirements for “solar ready homes,” rebate programs, and other measures; and

3. Ending subsidies for fossil fuel industries.

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