America’s current fleet of gasoline-powered cars and trucks leaves us dependent on oil, contributes to air pollution problems that threaten our health, and produces large amounts of global warming pollution. “Plug-in” cars are emerging as an effective way to lower global warming emissions, oil use, and smog. A “plug-in” car is one that can be recharged from the electric grid. Some plug-in cars run on electricity alone, while others are paired with small gasoline engines to create plug-in hybrids. Many plug-in hybrids can get over 100 miles per gallon, while plug-in electric vehicles consume no gasoline at all.
As automakers race to become the first to introduce a mass production plug-in vehicle to American consumers, citizens and decision-makers are grappling to understand the implications of switching to a vehicle fleet fueled primarily by electricity for our environment, for consumers, and for the nation as a whole.
Plug-in vehicles show great promise for addressing the nation’s environmental and energy challenges. But it will take strong public policy action to help plug-in vehicles make the leap from promising technology to everyday reality for Americans.
America is the largest consumer of energy in the world. The majority of this energy is derived from dirty, polluting sources such as coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power. Our consumption of these fuels exacerbates global warming, keeps us dependent upon oil and other fossil fuels, and undermines our economy.
40 percent of America’s energy—ten percent of all the energy used in the world—goes towards powering our buildings. Much of this energy is simply wasted through poor insulation, leaky windows, inefficient lighting, heating or cooling systems, and poor construction techniques.
Georgia’s reliance on dirty energy is fueling global warming, harming our health, threatening our security, and stalling our economy. Burning coal, oil and gas for energy and transportation is responsible for 80 percent of U.S. global warming pollution and most of our smog and soot pollution.
We can protect our environment and strengthen our economy by investing in clean energy and green infrastructure. If implemented effectively, the green economic recovery plan recently passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama would mean less global warming pollution, fewer asthma attacks induced by air pollution and cleaner lakes and rivers for drinking water, swimming and fishing. It would also provide more sustainable energy in the long term, and create more jobs in the short term than investing in the dirty energy technologies of the past.
America’s open spaces are an integral part of our national identity. Our natural landscapes not only provide us with places of great beauty, but they also play a critical role in providing habitat for wildlife along with clean water, fresh air and recreational opportunities for Americans.
With these values at stake, many states —and their taxpaying citizens—have made significant investments in protecting these beautiful landscapes from destructive activities. Nevertheless, America’s woods, fields, and meadows are steadily slipping away. Sprawling, unplanned development and mounting pressure to drill, log, and mine America’s last remaining wilderness areas threaten the health of our environment and communities and jeopardize the natural legacy we will leave to future generations.
Environment Georgia 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.