The National Effects of a Renewables Standard

Many U.S. States have made a commitment to requiring a certain amount of their power come from renewable energy sources and reaped the myriad benefits including a cleaner environment, a boost to their economic and job base, all the while decreasing their reliance on foreign sources of energy.

Washington D.C. – September 9, 2004 [] Now imagine if the Federal Government decided to make a similar commitment. A national renewable energy standard (RES) of 20 percent by 2020 would save families and businesses US$49 billion in lower electricity and gas bills, according to a new study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. More than 355,000 jobs would be created if the United States obtained 20 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. This total is nearly double the number of jobs from generating the same amount of electricity from fossil fuels. A national RES would also provide new income from capital investment and direct payments to rural communities. An RES can reduce America’s increasing dependence on importing natural gas from the Middle East and former Soviet states. “Renewable energy can create good jobs and save consumers money while reducing our growing dependence on energy imports from politically unstable regions around the world,” said Alan Nogee, Clean Energy program director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It is time our elected officials free us from being hostage to energy resources of the 19th century, and switch to advanced clean energy technologies. The technologies are ready. All it takes is the political will.” A 20 percent renewable standard would also save consumers more than $35 billion on their electricity bills through 2020, and another $14 billion in lower natural gas bills. Renewables achieve these savings primarily by reducing the demand for, and the price of, natural gas. The analysis found 20 percent renewable electricity by 2020 would boost the U.S. economy with benefits such as: – A net gain of more than 157,000 new jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance, and other industries – $73 billion in capital investment – $16 billion in income to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners for biomass energy supplies and wind power land leases – $5 billion in property tax revenues for rural communities “Renewable energy provides economic benefits without producing the harmful pollution generated by coal-fired power plants,” said Steve Clemmer, Energy Research Director with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Instead of losing almost 80,000 jobs from chemical companies moving plants overseas to escape high natural gas prices, the U.S. could be creating highly skilled renewable energy jobs. Installing and operating wind turbines and solar panels and growing energy crops are jobs that cannot be outsourced.” U.S. power plant carbon dioxide emissions-a major contributor to global warming-would be also 15 percent lower in 2025 under a national renewable electricity standard of 20 percent. The same policy would reduce other pollutants from burning fossil fuels such as nitrogen oxides that produce smog and mercury that harm human health.
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