We must lower harmful emissions, improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities, and make cleaner, affordable transportation available to all.

We all know that harmful emissions from fossil fuels are poisoning the air, but what goes up must come down. A responsible strategy for minimizing exposure to toxic pollutants must encompass strategies that protect the full nexus between our air, our food, and our groundwater. Without action, unchecked pollution will continue to take a devastating toll on vulnerable communities.

We must adopt cleaner fuel choices that will immediately lower harmful emissions, improve health outcomes in our most vulnerable communities, and make cleaner and more affordable transportation solutions available to all.

Supporting green energy also mean creating strong, middle-class jobs that will support healthy communities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing occupations in America are solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians.

Similar growth opportunities can be found across a range of green jobs, which are creating lasting economic opportunities in urban and rural communities across the country. Jobs producing renewable energy now outnumber those related to fossil fuels in at least 41 states, according to New Energy America, and renewable energy sectors directly employ three million Americans.

Our Current Situation

More than 45 million Americans live, work, or attend school within 300 feet of a major road, airport, or railroad, where they are exposed to tailpipe emissions containing aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other toxins.

Other airborne pollutants, like mercury, are spewed by coal burning power plants, which continue to provide more than a quarter of all U.S. electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Mercury can travel halfway across the globe before returning to the surface, where it enters food and water supplies. According to the EPA, children exposed to mercury before birth are at the greatest risk, with symptoms impacting:

  • Cognitive thinking
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Language
  • Fine motor skills
  • Visual spatial skills

Similarly, carcinogenic petrochemicals like benzene have long been added to gasoline as octane boosters, despite the availability of low-cost bio-alternatives. These compounds can leak directly into groundwater or enter the ecosystem as airborne pollutants.

Fossil fuel production impacts our air and water before energy ever reaches the end user. For example, two-thirds of all oil and gas wells in the nation now undergo hydraulic fracking, a destructive process that can require up to six millions gallons of fresh water per well, according to the EPA.

That water is blended with dangerous chemicals and injected into the earth to break loose, untapped oil reserves. As part of the process, billions of gallons of tainted water return to the surface, where they pose a serious health risk to impacted communities.

Source: EPA

The Takeaway

Green communities are healthy communities. Replacing fossil fuels with earth-friendly alternatives will not only protect the air, it will protect our food and precious groundwater supplies.

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