Guess What Else Cost a Trillion

10/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Joshua Keyak Political science graduate, Yeshiva University; PresenTense '09 Greening Fellow

Health care reform seems to be the issue du jour.  Everyone’s talking about it, whether for or
against any particular bill.  It is hard
to ignore something when it has an initial price tag of over a trillion
dollars.  However, health care isn't the only issue that needs attention.
 There’s another sector that costs Americans hundreds of billions of
dollars and affects everyone’s quality of life.  The energy and
transportation sectors are in great need of help.  Not only do they need
to become more efficient for economic reasons, it also affects our health.  Pollution has been linked with numerous
health problems such as asthma, respiratory illnesses and even cancer.

In Ontario
air pollution adds over $1 billion to their health bill while in California the
cost of pollution’s adverse effects on health cost $28 billion
annually.  While it is the responsibility
of governments and corporations to enact policy to reduce this cost we also
have the responsibility to improve our behavior.  We must live more
sustainable lifestyles, not only for our own individual health and pocket book
but also for the well-being of others.

Americans spent $921 billion on fossil fuels in 2006.  That number is growing from over a trillion
now and it’s estimated that between 2010 and 2030 $23
will be spent on fossil fuel in the US.   In 2007, the average American spent $2,384 on
gasoline and $3,477 on utilities.  Additionally,
the price of almost everything we buy from food to airline tickets is affected
due to the cost of transportation and energy. 
As a general trend, these costs are growing and will continue to grow
until we take steps to reduce our use of fossil fuels. 

I am not suggesting that we should focus on the energy and
transportation sector instead of healthcare. 
I am positing that reform of the energy and transportation sector is
important and beneficial to the future of America.   Policies like Obama’s push to increase the
fuel economy standards to 35 MPG by 2016 could save consumers tens of billions
of dollars.  Large initial investments will
be necessary to update our outdated dirty energy and transportation sectors.  By investing now we will be investing in a
cleaner, healthier, more efficient future.