Draft GPUS Platform Amendment Energy
Section Title: Energy
Section Subtitle: Energy for a safe climate and a cleaner world
Our position: Greens advocate for a rapid reduction in energy consumption and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources.
With five percent of the world's population, United States residents consume twenty-six percent of the world's energy. Our consumption of electricity is almost nine times greater than the average for the rest of the world. These are not sustainable levels.
The United States has a high energy consumption economy based on fossil energy. Fossil energy is extremely harmful to the local and global environment and communities, and is finite. Our entire infrastructure is designed for, and utterly dependent on, plentiful oil, coal, and natural gas.
Dirty and dangerous energy sources have generated an unparalleled assault on the environment and human rights in many nations. In the U.S., low income communities and communities of color bear the greatest burden of health impacts due to exposure to emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants. Native American communities have been devastated by uranium mining, and the poor of Appalachia witness helplessly as their ancient mountains are destroyed for a few years’ worth of coal-fired electricity. Regional and global peaks in supply are driving up costs of conventional fuels and threatening wars and social chaos.
Fossil Fuels are Finite. Oil extraction rates from any oil field or country are known to follow a bell curve. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 and has been in steady decline ever since. It is a bell-shaped graph. For the entire history of petroleum extraction, the world has cumulatively experienced the growing side of the bell, which has translated into an expanding global economy. Many petroleum industry experts predict the global peaking of the curve within the coming decade, with permanently declining extraction rates to follow. The International Energy Agency warns that “the era of cheap oil is over, the time to act is now.” Coal and natural gas also follow bell curves in terms of extraction rates. Although coal is more abundant than oil, it is inherently dirtier than oil, is limited in terms of its use as a vehicle fuel, and demand is skyrocketing globally for use in electricity generation. Natural Gas, a fossil fuel, is also in high demand for power production and is ultimately finite. All of these energy sources are associated with extraction, transportation, processing and refining practices that are extremely hazardous to human health, the environment, and communities throughout the globe.
The global community has consumed about half what nature generated over hundreds of millions of years. As far as petroleum goes, we have picked the low-hanging fruit. We must plan and prepare for the end of fossil fuels now, while we still have energy available to build the cleaner, more sustainable energy infrastructure that we will soon need, based on true primary sources of energy such as the sun.
Burning fossil fuel releases enormous quantities ancient carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that are changing the global climate, and thus reducing the survival prospects of future generations. If humanity and other species are to avoid catastrophic climate change, we must begin reducing fossil carbon dioxide emissions immediately, and bring them virtually to zero before mid-century.
Simple substitution won’t work. To simply substitute better energy sources in place of fossil fuels is not the answer for two main reasons. First, there are no energy sources (renewable or otherwise) capable of supplying energy as cheaply and in such abundance as fossil fuels currently yield in the time that we need them to come online. Second, we have designed and built the infrastructure of our transport, electricity, and food systems – as well as our national building stock – to suit the unique characteristics of oil, natural gas, and coal. Changing to different energy sources will require the redesign of many aspects of those systems.
The energy transition cannot be accomplished with a minor retrofit of existing energy infrastructure. Just as our fossil fuel economy differs from the agrarian economy of 1800, the post-fossil fuel economy of 2050 will be profoundly different from all that we are familiar with now. The differences will be in urban design and land use patterns, food systems, manufacturing and distribution networks, the job market, transportation systems, health care, tourism, and more.
It can be argued that these changes will occur if we wait for the market price of fossil fuels to reflect scarcity with higher costs forcing society to adapt. However, at least a decade of lead time is required for any kind of orderly transition to a new energy paradigm. Lack of government planning will result in a transition that is chaotic, painful, destructive, and possibly unsurvivable. We need to reduce our energy consumption and restructure our economy to run primarily on renewable energy.
Encourage conservation and reduce energy consumption
1. Institute national energy efficiency standards with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 50% in 2020.
2. Support building codes for new construction that incorporate the best available energy conservation designs. Retrofit millions of existing buildings and homes for energy efficiency.
3. Support a carbon tax as a market incentive to increase efficiency.
Swiftly transition to safe and clean energy
1. Move decisively to solar, wind, geo-thermal, marine and other Cleaner Renewable Energy Sources
2. Research and increased government support for new energy storage technologies, new cheaper and non-toxic photovoltaic materials and processes, and new geothermal and ocean power technologies.
3. Support financing policies to help homeowners install expensive renewable energy.
4. Support research into advanced fuels, such as non-fossil. nuclear-based hydrogen, when the purpose of the research is to develop a fuel that in its full cycle does not create more problems than it solves.
End the Use of Dirty and Dangerous Energy Sources
1. Phase-out of all nuclear and coal power plants.
2. A moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants, the early retirement of existing nuclear power reactors, and the phase-out of technologies that use or produce nuclear waste, such as nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all commercial and military uses of depleted uranium.
3. Terminate public subsidies or bailouts for nuclear power.
4. Ban mountaintop removal coal mining.
5. Cease the development of fuels produced with polluting, energy-intensive processes or from unsustainable or toxic feedstocks, such as genetically-engineered crops, coal and waste streams contaminated with persistent toxics.
6. Support community-scale renewable and biofuels fuel production programs that recover otherwise wasted biomass or utilize clean primary energy sources such as wind and solar.
1. Plan for decentralized, bio-regional electricity generation and distribution.
2. Oppose deregulation of the electric industry and strongly support public power.
3. Set goals and standards and to provide public investment capital for decentralized municipal power systems.
4. Support incentives for small-scale, local, low-input producers.