Power plants continue to release large amounts of toxic pollutants, including mercury, into our air. In 2010, two-thirds of all airborne mercury pollution in the United States came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. In other words, power plants generate more airborne mercury pollution than all other industrial sources combined.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxicant. Mercury exposure during critical periods of brain development can contribute to irreversible deficits in verbal skills, damage to attention and motor control, and reduced IQ.
In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the first national standards limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution from existing coal- and oil-fired power plants. Implementing these standards will protect public health.
All Americans should be able to breathe clean air. But pollution from power plants and vehicles puts the health of our nation’s children and families at risk. Ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, is one of the most harmful and one of the most pervasive air pollutants. According to the American Lung Association, nearly half of all Americans – 48 percent – still live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution. Studies show that on days with high concentrations of smog pollution in the air, children and adults suffer more asthma attacks, increased respiratory difficulty, and reduced lung function. Exposure to smog pollution can exacerbate respiratory illness and even cause premature death. Sensitive populations including children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illness are particularly at risk of the adverse health effects of air pollution.
In February 2010, the Obama administration announced that it would help finance two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, offering an $8.33 billion loan guarantee to Georgia Power (a subsidiary of Southern Company) and two other companies invested in the project. President Obama claimed that the investment was necessary to create clean energy jobs, stimulate our economy to export homegrown technology instead of importing foreign oil, and secure the future of our planet and our civilization by fighting the growing threat of global warming.
However, this loan is an expensive gamble on a technology with a long history of bankrupting utilities and soaking ratepayers. New nuclear reactors are not cheap, not clean, and will set America back in the race against global warming. Most importantly, they are not necessary.Clean energy technologies can begin cutting global warming pollution right away,do so at lower cost and with less risk, and will create more jobs in the process.
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.