Below are 13 facts on the true costs of oil, nuclear and clean energy. It's time to include these data and statistics in the energy debate. All told, oil and nuclear power costs governments trillions more than is ever calculated into the political rhetoric. And it must be acknowledged that while oil reserves are finite, the sun always shines, water always flows and the wind always blows, though, admittedly, at different times.
1. Clean Energy Doubled.
2. Over a Trillion Spent Importing Oil.
3. Tens of Billions In Debt to OPEC, Every Month.
4. Oil Imports Slow GDP Growth.
5. The High Price of Gas in Lives.
6. The Price of Patrolling the Persian Gulf.
7. BP Oil Spill.
8. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Crisis.
9. Health Care and Survivor Benefits for Wounded Veterans.
10. Electric Vehicles Cost Less Than Gas.
11. Sunny States and Solar.
12. Asthma and Respiratory Health.
13. Obesity and Pedal Power.
As you can see in the details below, old school energy costs us lives, communities, land, food, health, national security, economic growth and money, and makes unfriendly countries rich at our expense. Clean energy is cost effective, reliable, easier on the environment, simple and puts more money into American business, American technology and American wallets.
1. Clean Energy Doubled. 13% of the U.S. energy was renewable in 2011 (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration), This is almost double from the 7% renewables used in 2006. The price tag of that commitment? An "all of the above" energy strategy budget of $27.2 billion has been requested by President Barack Obama for the Department of Energy in 2013. According to DOE Secretary Steven Chu, "The United States is competing in a global race for the clean energy jobs of the future. The choice we face as a nation is simple: do we want the clean energy technologies of tomorrow to be invented in America by American innovators, made by American workers and sold around the world, or do we want to concede those jobs to our competitors?"
2. Over a Trillion Spent Importing Oil (over the last three years). The U.S. imported $331.6 billion of crude oil and $421.2 billion for all energy-related petroleum products in 2011. (source: BEA.gov) Over a three-year period, that's more than a trillion dollars spent importing oil and making other nations rich. Annually, it is more than 15 times what the Department of Energy is requesting to develop cleaner, more competitive fuels that can be produced at home.
3. Tens of Billions In Debt to OPEC, Every Month. We had an $11.2 billion monthly deficit to OPEC in May 2012 (Source: BEA). It was even higher in April. Our annual trade deficit to OPEC is almost 5 times higher than the DOE budget requested for 2013.
4. Oil Imports Slow GDP Growth. Real exports of goods and services in the United States increased 5.3 percent in the second quarter of 2012, higher than the 4.4 percent increase in the first quarter. This is a sign that business is headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, real imports of goods and services also increased -- almost doubling the increase of the 1st quarter -- at 6.0 percent. Imports are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, so slow GDP growth in the U.S. is directly tied to our addiction to oil and deficit with OPEC. In fact, over the past few years, when gas prices spike, GDP growth wanes, and when gas prices relax a little, GDP growth sparks.
5. The High Price of Gas in Lives. "For every 50 fuel convoys, we have one American killed or wounded. For us, that's just too high a price to pay for fuel," according to Thomas Hicks, the deputy assistant secretary of energy for the U.S. Navy.
6. The Price of Patrolling the Persian Gulf. In its 2009 report, "Imported Oil and U.S. National Security," the Rand Corporation determined that the U.S. would save $83 billion in defense spending annually, if we did not have to patrol the Persian Gulf to ensure the supply and safe global transit of oil.
7. BP Oil Spill. The true costs of the BP Oil Spill will not be known for decades. However, the U.K. Independent did a good job of reminding us that the spill killed 11 men and thousands of birds and turtles, wiped out a multi-billion dollar fishing, seafood and tourism industry and harmed the health of individuals who were charged with cleaning up the area. BP wrote off $40 billion in losses in 2010 with respect to Gulf of Mexico spill -- something only a $132 billion company can survive.
8. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The cost of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima is another one that will probably never be fully calculated. 150,000 people had to be evacuated and the contaminated area may be uninhabitable for decades (source: Green Peace). Local businesses are wiped out. TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has suffered more two trillion yen in losses over the past two years, which would have put it out of business, had the Japanese government not bailed the company out. The Fukushima power plant might require decades to decommission. Radioactive water has leaked into the ocean and contaminated the soil.
9. Health Care and Survivor Benefits for Wounded Veterans. War-related death and injury cost a lot. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that "the total real resources (in 2010 dollars) necessary to provide health care services to all veterans who seek treatment at the Veteran's Administration will range from $69 billion to $85 billion in 2020." Though there is a "fast-growing share of enrollments" in the VA program from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the CBO is not predicting that these veterans will use the service because " they are younger and healthier than other veterans served by VA." In other words, these costs could be on the low side.
10. Electric Vehicles Cost Less. The average person spends more than $2000 a year on gasoline (assuming a 16-mile commute each way to work and $3.50/gallon gas). Over a five-year period, commuters spend $10,000 on fuel -- more if their commute is longer. When gas prices rise, consumers are gouged even more. That means electric cars are more affordable than you know, particularly if your commute is farther than 16-miles, gas prices are above $3.50/gallon and you can power your car with solar energy.
11. Sunny States and Solar. According to Michael Liebreich, CEO, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, " If you pay quite high rates mid-day, then you should put solar on your roof, even now, without subsidy. Solar is going to get cheaper and cheaper to the point where within two or three years, in every sunny country, having solar panels on your roof will be cheaper than buying from your utility." Learn more in my interview with Michael, on my HuffingtonPost Blog page.
12. Health. In cities like Beijing, Los Angeles, New York and even Las Vegas, it's not just a question of being on the right side of global warming. It's a question of reducing pollution and cutting down on respiratory illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), 4.3 million people were diagnosed with asthma between 2001 and 2009. Asthma related medical care costs were $56 billion in 2007.
13. Obesity and Pedal Power. Countries with pro-biking policies have almost no obesity. China, the Netherlands and Germany all have bike-friendly streets and healthier people, as a direct result, with obesity rates of 2.9%, 0% and 12.9%, respectively. By comparison, one out of every three people living in the United States is obese. The price tag of obesity? According to the CDC, the annual health care bill for obesity-related medical care is $147 billion. The U.S. spends 16.20% of GDP on health care -- the second highest health care spending to GDP in the world.
Dollars and Sense Considerations
What is the true cost of wiping out a thriving community of over 150,000 people and of contaminating a nation's food supply, as happened in the Fukushima nuclear disaster? What is the true cost of patrolling the Persian Gulf and providing medical care to wounded soldiers? Do we really want to make OPEC countries rich off of our oil addiction? This is the debate we need to be having over energy. These dollars and sense are essential to consider when developing our domestic energy policy.
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