Last week, President Obama made history when he raised fuel economy standards for America’s car fleet to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and cut our oil imports by one-third. They also represent the biggest step America has taken to reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change.
This is the kind of job-creating, pollution-cutting breakthrough I hope to hear more about during the Democratic Presidential Convention in Charlotte. Clean energy resonates with all the party’s key messages and offers a positive way to address voters’ biggest concerns right now: jobs, economic growth, and the health of our families.
But NRDC’s Action Fund analysis of recent campaigns reveals that in order to win on clean energy, candidates can’t just support the issue. They have to lead on it. They have to offer a vision for America’s clean energy future, and they have to do it before their opponents frame the issue for them.
Democratic leaders should use the megaphone of the convention to tell the story of how clean energy is benefiting Americans right now.
Thanks to a combination of government policies and private sector gumption, roughly 35 percent of all new power built in the United States in the last four years came from wind. The wind industry is putting roughly 80,000 Americans to work and providing a critical source of income to farmers and ranchers in a time of crushing drought—wind companies pay out more than $400 million a year to property owners and local tax collectors every year. The solar industry is also growing. It is now 10 times the size it was just a few years ago and employs more than 100,000 Americans, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Automakers are also breaking new ground and creation new jobs. More than 150,000 Americans have jobs making parts for and assembling fuel efficient cars—hybrids, electric cars, and other advanced vehicles that weren’t even available 10 years ago.
Cars that go farther on a tank of gas and power that comes from renewable resources like wind and solar help reduce the amount of pollution we breathe. Coal-fired power plants, for instance, release pollutants proven to cause asthma, heart attacks, and cancer. Burning coal and oil also contribute to climate change, which threatens our health with polluted air and extreme weather events. Introducing cleaner power helps shield our families from illness and costly medical bills.
Clean energy’s success isn’t only measured in job numbers and health improvements. It has also rekindled a vital American tradition: using ingenuity to improve our lives. Clean energy breakthroughs save us money at the pump, clean up our air, and put Americans to work. They secure our nation’s leadership of the 21st century global energy market. And they confirm the value of forward-looking innovation.
In contrast, the energy plan laid out at last week’s GOP Convention would take our country backward. It would stifle clean energy innovation and lead to more pollution, more gas guzzlers, and more oil addiction.
Dirty industries have spent a lot of money on Republican campaigns, and they expect to be rewarded with fewer safeguards and more control over the nation’s energy decisions. But most American voters want our leaders to represent the public’s interest, not polluters’.
They want companies to take responsibility for cleaning up their waste. According to a poll of voters in nine key battleground states found that nearly four out of five Americans (78 percent) want the Environmental Protection Agency to hold corporate polluters accountable for what they release into the community.
Three out of four Americans believe the U.S. should focus more on clean energy sources, such as wind and wind solar, according to a poll conducted in August by ORC International Ltd. That includes 61 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Democrats, and 80 percent of Independents. And a Consumer Reports survey found that 80 percent of car owners want to raise fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2025.
Voters welcome clean energy leadership. Republicans have ceded the ground, and Democrats should claim it. They should celebrate clean energy’s economic and health benefits and trumpet the party’s role in delivering them. And they should start at this week’s convention.