We can save money and help solve global warming by reducing the amount of energy we use, including in the buildings where we live and work every day. More than 40 percent of our energy — and 10 percent of all the energy used in the world — goes toward powering America’s buildings. But today’s high-efficiency homes and buildings prove that we have the technology and skills to drastically improve the efficiency of our buildings while simultaneously improving their comfort and affordability.
After a year that saw many parts of the country hit by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, severe storms and record flooding, a new Environment America report documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future. The report found that, already, 4 out of 5 Americans live in counties affected by federally declared weather-related disasters since 2006. Last year’s Hurricane Irene, which resulted in the death of 45 people in the 13 states hit by the storm, and an estimated $7.3 billion in damage, is one of the extreme weather events highlighted in the report.
The nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan last year drew a spotlight on the many risks associated with nuclear power. After the disaster, airborne radiation left areas around the plant uninhabitable, and even contaminated drinking water sources near Tokyo, 130 miles from the plant.
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.
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.
Environment America Research & Policy Center
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Environment America 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.