As world leaders prepare to meet in Copenhagen to develop a plan of action to combat global warming, all eyes are on the United States. As the world’s largest economy, the second-largest emitter of global warming pollution, and the nation responsible for more of the human-caused carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere than any other, the success of the Copenhagen negotiations – and the future of the planet – depend on American leadership.
The United States relies heavily on outdated technology and limited resources for most of its electricity needs. While the production of clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar power is growing, the vast majority of American electricity comes from burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—and from nuclear power.
Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year — threatening both the environment and human health. According to the EPA, pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 10,000 miles of rivers and more than 200,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.
Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our nation’s oil consumption and nearly a third of our carbon dioxide emissions. To make us more energy independent and reduce pol- lution, we need to build a transportation system that uses less oil, takes advantage of alternative fuels, and shifts as much of our travel as possible from transportation modes that consume a lot of energy to those that consume less.
In June 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES). This climate and energy legislation included a number of provisions intended to help the U.S. reduce energy use through various energy efficiency measures. Foremost, the bill requires utilities to obtain 20% of their energy through a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2020, with energy efficiency allowed to meet up to 8% of the 20% goal. Other energy efficiency provisions are designed to improve energy savings associated with improved building codes and retrofits, and appliance standards. The bill also facilitates energy savings within the transportation and industrial sectors. Additionally, the cap and trade provisions of the bill dictate how carbon allowances will be apportioned.
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