It’s not that hard being green!

By: Jonathan Itskovitch

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Caption: Earth Day Doodle form Google. Source: Jonathan Itskovitch

This Tuesday was Earth Day. Cities around the world commemorated their environmental progress, and New York has a Green Festival coming up this weekend. While much has been done since the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental issues persist to be a major problem facing society. Before the 1970s, New York City was covered in soot and the Hudson River was murky and lifeless. With the establishment of the EPA, environmental regulation and cleanup efforts have made the U.S. a significantly cleaner place than it used to be. Nevertheless, the threat of global warming is becoming more pertinent, and more and more wildlife is becoming extinct. Unfortunately the United States has not fully kept up with other advanced nations in enhancing environmental action. Many European nations have a majority of electricity powered by renewable sources. However, only 13.2% of energy in the Untied States comes from renewable sources. In fact, the majority of American electricity is powered by coal, which is even more consequential for the environment than gas. The United States used to lead the environmental movement, so why is it lagging so far behind nowadays?

In short, the answer is jobs. Big energy corporations promise a large job potential in oil and natural gas production. As the economy is still recovering from a recession and unemployment is ever so slowly decreasing, people want jobs immediately. Furthermore, environmental regulations may put people out of jobs – this has especially affected loggers in West Virginia. However, this is no excuse. The government should vastly grow the green energy market. This can be done in two ways. First, the government can incent energy companies to turn towards green energy by lowering corporate tax rates for “green companies.” Lowering these tax rates would convince these companies to become more eco-friendly and stay in the United States.

Second, the government should expand the green energy public sector and hire more workers. Not only would this lower unemployment, but also it would quickly catch America up to its European allies. The public and private sectors working together to accomplish higher green energy production would be an incredibly effective method. In my view, the government has a right to intervene when large corporations conflict the public interest. The public overwhelmingly supports green energy and environmental action, yet so many politicians nowadays refuse to even acknowledge the existence of global warming. This is because many are paid for and sponsored by energy companies who oppose environmental regulation or incentivizing.

There are other actions the United States should take to progress its environmental action. America should join the other 55 nations who signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, promising commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, the EPA should more loosely define an endangered species so that it can protect wildlife more easily.

The United States contributes around 17% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, even if America produced 0 carbon emissions, it would not mean much unless China and India stepped up their game as well. China contributes to 24% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and India another 8%. Now, opponents of environmental action would say that if China and India no nothing, neither should the United States because it would have no effect. We should not think like that though. America should hasten its green energy efforts because 17% of carbon production is significant, and doing so sets an example to the rest of the world.