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Commentary-Launching America Into A New Energy Future



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Launching America Into A New Energy Future

By Virginia Robnett

 Public concern about energy and our nation’s dependence on oil is higher than it has been at any time since the 1970s. Americans from across the political spectrum are realizing the long-term economic and foreign policy implications of our overreliance on oil and the perils of our current energy path; and global warming is adding to the public’s sense of urgency about reducing our fossil fuel consumption.

 For the first time in several decades, energy is poised to be one of the defining issues in this election. And, America already has the technology to accomplish the goals of reducing US dependence on oil; harnessing clean, renewable, homegrown energy; and saving energy. We can’t afford to pass on any of these opportunities.

 We can and must put our country on a path to a New Energy Future. We can and must reduce US dependence on oil, and we can save one-third of the oil we use today by 2025. We can and must harness clean homegrown energy sources for 25 percent of our energy by 2025, save energy with high performance homes, appliances and businesses so that we use ten percent less energy in 2025 than we use today, and dramatically increase investments in research and development funding for energy-saving and renewable technologies.

America has virtually limitless potential to generate electricity from renewable energy sources. But we must commit ourselves, nationally, to a New Energy Future.

Robert Chew, owner of SolarWrights, “Rhode Island’s Fastest Growing Private Business” (Providence Business News, August 2006) expanded his company into Connecticut last year because of the generous incentives provided by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund for photovoltaic systems. According to Chew, “Connecticut is the best market in the Northeast to sell and install photovoltaic systems and we are continuing our expansion throughout Connecticut.” It is easy for homeowners to install grid-connected photovoltaic systems that will produce all of their annual electricity needs, something that Chew does on his own home.

And, homes like that of Judi Friedman in Canton can generate almost as much energy as they use by combining energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy sources. Their photovoltaic system reduces that amount of electricity that they get from nonrenewable sources and their solar hot water system saves the use of fossil fuels that are typically used to heat hot water.

Guy Wanegar of A&B Cooling in South Windsor has installed 200 geothermal systems here in Connecticut. Using the natural heat contained in the ground to heat our homes and buildings is a great way to reduce our use of imported energy. More than one million geothermal heat pumps are currently in use in the United States and this industry is rapidly expanding.

According to the Boston Globe, The United States has five percent of the world’s population yet uses 25 percent of the world’s energy. We can never become energy independent by continuing our wasteful ways. We must reduce the amount of energy used for our transportation needs as well as how much energy is used in our homes and buildings. Bill Grover, a partner in Centerbrook Architects in Essex, has been designing buildings since the 1970s that use less energy than traditional buildings. Now we can build as “zero-energy” homes that virtually eliminate the need for fossil fuels and “green” commercial buildings that slice demand for energy by 25 to 40 percent or more.

Achieving the goals of a New Energy Future will not be an easy task, so we need leaders who are up to the challenge. We can reduce our energy use through conservation and improved efficiency and by incorporating renewable energy systems, but to become energy independent it will require everyone working together toward this important goal. Those candidates that support these goals, will send a clear message to voters that they are committed to putting American innovation to work in order to break America’s dependence on oil and put our nation on a course toward a more economically and environmentally secure energy future.

(Virginia Robnett is the Federal Field Organizer for ConnPIRG, a statewide environmental and consumer advocacy group that has been working to build support for policies to move America toward a cleaner, more secure energy future.)

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