From cellulosic bioenergy to grid-scale storage, the path to a cleaner atmosphere is being paved by scientists, engineers, and visionaries who are building the green economy of the 21st century.
These are not far-flung technologies. In nearly every sector of the economy, new energy sources can make an immediate impact on air quality. These include:
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, consumption of nonhydroelectric renewable energy has more than doubled since the turn of the century. This progress has largely been driven by state and federal policies designed to replace fossil fuels with cleaner sources of energy. Yet, today, renewable sources supply a mere 11 percent of all energy consumed in the United States.
To protect our air, we must foster an environment that will accelerate the deployment of new, cleaner energy options – bringing technology out of the lab and into the field. Equally important, these efforts must encompass more than renewable fuel. Among the most promising new technologies aimed at protecting U.S. air quality are innovations in energy efficiency, conservation, transmission, and storage.
For example, aggressive research and development programs helped cut the cost of solar power by half since 2011. In fact, America’s solar industry brought the cost of utility-scale solar down to six cents per kilowatt-hour three years before the 2020 goal set by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. As a result, solar is more than market-competitive with other forms of energy – it saves families money.
The same is true among liquid fuels, where lower-carbon ethanol is now available at a deep discount relative to petroleum-based products. These biofuels not only hold down household transportation costs, they serve as an alternative octane booster in most gasoline blends, replacing toxic chemicals like MTBE and benzene. To date, ethanol is responsible for 45 percent of the net carbon reductions achieved under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).
By adopting an economy-wide approach aimed at reducing emissions with all available technologies, we can unleash America’s green ingenuity, protect the air, and make clean energy an affordable and accessible option for all families.