“The use of alternative energy is as inevitable as fossil fuels are finite.”
– Gawdat Bahgat, Professor of Political Science at the National Defense University
No matter how quiet we get, there always seems to be a buzz surrounding us. We hear it in our homes, schools, offices, even on calm, dimly-lit streets. It’s the hum of energy at work powering our world.
The buzz is only getting louder. With global population on the rise and industrialized economies growing, demand for energy is skyrocketing. At the same time, we are running out of fossil fuels, which have been the primary source of energy for the last 100 years. Fossil fuels are made up of the remains of long-dead animals, and will not renew themselves any time soon. Fossil fuels are, by nature, a finite resource and some day (soon), there will be none left.
Fossil fuels, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, hurt the planet in numerous ways — emitting tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, polluting our air, and threatening human health. Through destructive mining practices such as fracking, offshore drilling, and careless discarding of waste, the fossil fuel industry has damaged many ecosystems beyond repair with massive oil spills, leaked methane and caused other catastrophic happenings — escalating the climate crisis and harming vulnerable communities across the globe, such as the Niger Delta, now one of the most polluted places on Earth.
Fortunately, fossil fuels are not the only form of energy available. Wind, water, and the sun are all sources of renewable energy that can be utilized without most of the negative consequences of fossil fuels. As our partner Klean Kanteen proudly affirms and puts into practice, “Energy conservation and clean energy sources are the best ways to both slow the rate and intensity of climate change, and to support natural resilience and adaptability of plant, animal and human communities.”
In the past, technological and economic concerns limited energy possibility, but these obstacles are quickly disappearing. New technological developments in renewable energy are made every day and prices for solar and wind power have dropped dramatically over the past several years. Countries are enacting bold plans to seize the opportunity. For example, the UK now produces more renewable energy than fossil fuels, while China recently became the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy, and South Africa began to transition from coal directly to renewables. So what is standing in the way of renewable energy becoming the dominant power source in the United States?
Unfortunately, there is a big obstacle left to overcome. In the US, the fossil fuel industry’s strong lobbying efforts and deep-pocket campaign contributions mean that the government is too often on the side of the damaging industry, instead of its citizens and Earth. Without comparable political leadership, advocacy and support, renewable energy producers struggle to deliver power, maintain competitive prices, develop infrastructure and expand across the country. We have to both fight dirty energy AND grow clean energy, as our partner Green America outlines with in-depth research, information, news and campaigns.
One major movement to change this is the Green New Deal, a comprehensive plan and pair of 2019 resolutions sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey to transition the economy away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy. The Green New Deal (GND) focuses on many aspects of an energy transition, from new jobs to efficiency to environmental justice. Nearly 100 representatives and 14 senators have signed on, but it will take massive amounts of advocacy to put the GND on the path to reality. People nationwide have come together to lobby elected officials to support the GND, pushing for presidential candidates to include it in party platforms. Many states and cities have already taken a first step by enacting versions of the Green New Deal locally.
While working on large scale systematic change to ensure a renewable energy future, what can we do about fossil fuel use right now? Most of us are not able to choose where the energy for our home or car comes from, but if you do have the choice of a renewable energy provider or electric car, jump on better ones!
A key way to make a difference in your own life is to reduce the amount of energy you use on a daily basis, by doing everything from turning off lights to taking public transportation and more. Together, we can cut our consumption of fossil fuels, as we work to ensure they soon become a thing of the past. And such a world is possible!
When global transportation and industry were forced to hit pause at the start of COVID-19, we saw immediate effects of reduced fossil fuel use upon the environment. Pollution dissipated, rivers cleared, and wildlife returned to, explored and flourished in urban and suburban areas. It is vital to note that these temporary benefits, however “good” they may seem, came at the steep cost of jobs, livelihoods and lives — and therefore are not a sustainable form of change. However, it did offer a glimpse into what a less-fossil fuel centric future could look like and provide reassurance that reducing fossil fuel use can cause rapid positive change.
Fossil fuels power our cars, homes, electronics, everything, but do you know how much you use in day-to-day life? How can you make a difference by cutting usage?
First, check out a few charts on fossil fuel consumption worldwide. See how much coal, natural gas, and oil is used in your home country. Breaking it down to the individual level is difficult, but here are three small actions you can take to reduce impact:
Commit to one of these actions and post it proudly on Instagram and/or Twitter. You can include one of the charts too! Make sure to tag @TurningGreenOrg and @KleanKanteen with #PGC2020.
Upload your responses in a PDF document and a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Transitions to renewable energy require policy change, which means electing leaders who champion and support policies that usher in a sustainable energy future. So we must become informed about our policymakers’ energy platforms.
Research a few local, regional or national politicians’ stance on renewable energy. If you’re in the US, check out whether your Representatives and Senators support the Green New Deal and other policies.
Upload your responses in a PDF document. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
We use a lot of energy at home, powering appliances, running water, and heating and cooling spaces. But there are many ways to reduce usage, and therein lessen fossil fuel consumption and pollution.
First, let’s assess how much energy your home appliances use every day. Use this calculator to find out how many watts of electricity your fridge, microwave, A/C or other plugins require.
Now, it’s time to get to work to reduce the amount of energy you use. Consider which appliances could be used less or unplugged when not in use. Check this list from the US Energy Department for other actions that save energy at home (8-10 are most applicable if you live with family, but could be applied to school leadership, people you rent from, or building management).
Upload your responses in a PDF document. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.