The current methods of producing and consuming energy in the U.S. have the largest environmental impact of anything that we as citizens do on a day-to-day basis. I believe a meaningful Earth Day cannot exist without having a “Clean Energy Day.”
In the South, we’ve recently experienced two of the largest environmental disasters in the history of the United States; the Kingston, TN coal ash spill in December of 2008 and the Gulf oil spill, last spring. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima also directly impacts the South, we are at risk because of the significant number of nuclear power plants in the Southeast, three of those plants, Hatch in Baxley, GA; Browns Ferry in Decatur, AL; and Brunswick in Southport, NC, have a virtually identical design to the Fukushima reactor. Yet our region seems to be embracing nuclear power faster than other parts of the United States, currently there are more than a dozen proposed nuclear plants in the Southeast.
The bottom line is that all three of these technologies fit under SACE’s “High Risk Energy Choices” category because of the threats they pose to the environment and human health. We have and continue to see that dramatically unfold in all three of these tragic situations.
At SACE, we hope that on Earth Day, when people take time to reflect on how they can lessen their impacts on our planet, that clean energy is the primary focus. This is the most important thing we can do to lessen our environmental footprint; because ultimately, how and what each of us drives, effects how much drilling will take place. Focusing on our electricity consumption and what choices to make going forward is the key. For some, that may mean energy efficiency investments or renewable applications at your home, or engaging with your utilities about how they generate electricity on the grid . Others will track and engage elected officials on policy changes at the local, state and federal level. All of these things are personal choices, but they have broad, local, regional, national and yes, international implications.
We at SACE view Earth Day through the lens of “Clean Energy Day” and it’s not just a 24-hour occurrence. It really is everyday. We know no matter what the calendar says, every time we start our cars, we add carbon to the atmosphere; every time we turn on the television, we operate off an electric grid that is largely fueled by high risk choices. Of course this can change as we move to cleaner, safer ways of producing and consuming our energy.
The answers do not come easily, they are not painless, but these are tough choices that we have to make.
Join us everyday in making change and being part of the solution.