What if there was a way to fulfill our energy needs without drilling, oil spills or carbon dioxide emissions? What if that fuel was right near our population centers where the energy is most needed? What if harnessing this power could be done in a cleaner, more affordable way than our current business-as-usual options?
Well, there is. But we haven't even begun to use it, even though other countries like the UK and Denmark have been cashing in on it for years. I'm talking about one of the least used, but most practical ways to produce clean energy -- offshore wind power.
Offshore wind on the Atlantic Coast -- where much of our population is largely focused -- can generate nearly 30% more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources in that area, combined. Harvesting this energy would cost about $36 billion less than offshore oil and gas production, while creating about three times as many jobs.
Some wind-rich states like Delaware, Massachusetts and North Carolina could even generate as much electricity from offshore wind as they currently generate now -- from all sources. Other East Coast states like New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina could supply 92%, 83% and 64% of their current electricity generation with offshore wind, respectively. That's a lot of power, and way too much to ignore. Yet we are ignoring it every day. It just keeps breezing by without benefit to us.
Some argue there are environmental impacts, but are they really comparable to any of the alternatives? To put it simply, there's never been a wind blowout, no wind meltdowns, not a single wind-mining disaster, no ground water contamination from wind fracking, no clean up needed from a massive wind spill.
Basically, the environmental impacts of wind power are miniscule when compared to the impacts and risks of other forms of energy production. In fact, offshore wind could be the ocean-based part of the solution to climate change and to its "evil twin", ocean acidification.
Of course, even with all of these incentives a shift cannot be made overnight. For wind power to become a truly viable option, we need to have a strategic plan. Instead of arguing about lifting the moratorium, or fighting a wind farm, if we instead assembled the smartest minds to create a "blue ribbon" commission, we could develop a viable transition strategy.
This could include eliminating federal subsidies for fossil fuels, stopping new offshore oil and gas drilling (to reduce competition for resources and professional expertise), increasing and making permanent the investment tax credit for wind energy, which can be issued as a grant to startup companies, and accelerating the electrification of our fleet of vehicles to better utilize the abundant wind power.
While there are many obstacles to overcome in order to take advantage of the benefits of offshore wind, the more we learn about it, the more it proves to be worth the effort. There is a cheaper, cleaner, source of energy that creates more jobs, will never run out, and combats climate change all at once -- and that is a part of the clean energy future that our children and grandchildren deserve.
To learn more about the potential of offshore wind energy, see Oceana's new report.