Why Use Renewable Energy

Today we cook food, fuel cars, and heat homes primarily by burning fossil fuels that were created over millions of years. Using coal, oil, and natural gas is a convenient way to meet our energy needs, but these fuels are in limited supply. They are being used far more rapidly than they were created, and they will eventually run out. In addition, a significant portion of the country's nuclear capacity will likely be retired by 2020. At the same time that our nuclear capacity drops and fossil fuel supplies decline, our need for electricity will grow. U.S. electric generation capacity needs are projected to increase by 33% during the next 20 years (Energy Information Administration). Renewable energy can help fill this gap.

Even if we had an unlimited supply of fossil fuels, renewable energy is attractive because it is better for the environment. Burning fossil fuels sends greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Climate scientists generally agree that the Earth's average temperature has risen in the past century. If this trend

Photovoltaic panels produce renewable energy for the home.

continues, sea levels will rise, and scientists predict that floods, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather conditions could occur more often.

Other pollutants are released into the air, soil, and water when fossil fuels are burned. These pollutants take a dramatic toll on the environment. Air pollution contributes to lung diseases like asthma. Acid rain from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides harms plants and fish. And nitrogen oxide contributes to smog.

Energy independence is another reason to use renewable energy. The United States imports more than 50% of its oil, up from 34% in 1973. Foreign oil imports can be disrupted by political upheavals, trade disputes, and embargoes. Replacing some of our petroleum with biofuels made from organic matter could save money and strengthen our energy security.

6.6 tons

Current U.S. average Potential savings from per individual renewable energy use

Current U.S. average Potential savings from per individual renewable energy use

Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Using renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.

What Renewable Energy Technologies Make Sense for Consumers Now?

Many renewable energy technologies make sense for consumers today. Prices have dropped during the past 20 years and the technologies have improved. Using renewable energy is easier than ever. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol are becoming more widely available, and new vehicles that feature advanced fuel system technologies are now on the market. Utilities are starting to offer "green power" programs, in which you can opt to obtain electricity from renewable energy sources. Many states are in the process of deregulating electric utilities, which means that in the coming years, you will be able to choose your electric supplier just like you choose a long-distance phone com pany now. In California, Pennsylvania,

The Importance of Efficiency t's better for the environment (and cheaper) to improve the efficiency of your energy use than to produce more energy to meet inefficient consumption. Before investing in renewable energy technology, take stock of your current energy usage. Could you increase the energy efficiency of your home? To find out, conduct a home energy audit, which will tell you where you are using the most energy in your home. A companion booklet available from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home, provides information on energy audits and is an excellent resource for improving the energy efficiency of your home. (It's available online at www.eren.doe.gov/consumerinfo/ energy_savers.) By making a few of the improvements suggested in the booklet, you can save 10% to 50% on your energy bills.

Whether you purchase green power, add renewable energy to your home, or drive an alternative fuel vehicle, it is better for the environment and cheaper to reduce your energy use first, then meet your energy needs with renewables.

Homes of all sizes and styles can use renewable energy for power, heating, cooling, and lighting.

Massachusetts, Illinois, and other states, competitive markets are under way and green marketers are selling electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, biomass, and hydropower.

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