Clean energy is sweeping across America and is poised for more dramatic growth in the coming years. Wind turbines and solar panels made up a tiny fraction of our energy infrastructure 10 years ago. Today, they are everyday parts of America’s energy landscape. The number of homes heated with clean, efficient electric heat pumps increased by 28% in a decade from 2005 to 2015. Just a few years ago, electric vehicles seemed a far-off solution to decarbonize our transportation system. Now, they have broken through to the mass market. Virtually every day, there are new developments that increase our ability to produce renewable energy, apply it to a wider range of energy needs, and reduce our overall energy use. These developments enable us to envision an economy powered entirely by clean, renewable energy.
Local governments have an important role to play in making clean transportation a reality. Every day, local governments make decisions about municipal purchasing, the use of public streets and parking garages, planning and zoning, and other issues that can either make it easier or more difficult for their residents to own an EV. By using a set of key tools to encourage EV adoption, local governments can help clean up the air in their communities and take meaningful action against global warming.
More than one in six Americans, 58.4 million people, suffered through more than 100 days of elevated air pollution in 2020. Our report calls attention to the very real public health problems air pollution causes in both cities and rural areas across the country, such as asthma, heart issues, and premature death. It explains how global warming will make air pollution worse, and why tackling climate pollution has an impact on air quality.
The United States produces too much waste. Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S. – often only briefly – before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. This system of consumption and disposal results in the waste of precious resources and in pollution that threatens our health, environment and the global climate. Because the costs of this system fall on society at large – not on the producers and consumers who drive it – there are few direct incentives for change.
Americans love clean water. Every year, millions of us flock to our waterways to swim, surf, or go tubing, kayaking or fishing. That’s why the federal Clean Water Act set a goal of making all our waterways safe for swimming. Yet our research finds that all too often our beaches are still plagued with pollution, and millions of swimmers get sick every year. To dramatically reduce this pollution, we must boldy invest in improving our water infrastructure.
Environment Montana 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.