The planet is warming at an alarming rate. Although we won’t be able to prevent all the consequences of climate change at this point in time, we can still help to reduce the amount of warming by making big changes in how we generate and use energy.
Electric cars, solar panels, and wind farms have been growing in popularity over the last few decades for their role in clean air and sustainability efforts. As these types of technologies have improved and become more accessible, more and more individuals are turning to renewable energy in an effort to do their part in the movement against climate change.
That’s good news, but individual actions alone won’t make the necessary changes happen quickly enough to reduce the impact of climate change. Rapid changes can only occur with political buy-in— which can often take a long time to build.
Here’s why policy changes are needed to encourage renewable energy growth.
Government Plays a Major Role in the Energy Market
The energy sector has always been influenced by politics in the United States. The U.S. government has historically made huge investments in energy infrastructure and production, making access to resources like gas and electricity more affordable for people all over the country.
Since the government already plays such a major role in the U.S. energy market, it makes sense that it needs to be heavily involved in the push for renewable energy. These kinds of large investments have been necessary in the past to push the country forward and make energy upgrades.
How Public Policy Could Help Push Renewables Forward
Switching to renewable energy is a major undertaking that’s already well underway in some areas of the country. People who are able to afford the upfront costs and value the sustainability benefits of clean energy have already made the switch and are reaping the benefits.
The government can help push renewables forward by creating policies that will help phase out oil and gas use and incentivize or subsidize renewable energy infrastructure. Some of these policies have already been put into place at the state and federal levels.
For instance, the state of California has banned the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, which will serve as a major push to overhaul the way we power our transportation across the country. Automakers will have to decide if they want to lose out on profits in the state or switch over to producing more electric vehicles.
Government programs have also provided subsidies and rebates for homeowners who want to make the switch to renewables and more energy-efficient systems. Different programs have offered tax-funded discounts and rebates on electric cars, solar panels, heat pumps, and more.
Getting these policies passed, however, can be a slow and difficult process. With the clock ticking on climate change, lawmakers cannot afford to ignore these issues. A combination of incentive policies and regulatory policies that cause businesses to change their practices will help get the country on the right track.
Public Buy-In Doesn’t Equal Political Action
People might be eager to switch over to an electric car or to save on their energy bills, but that doesn’t automatically mean that policy changes will follow, especially in the business sector. Although our political representatives and officials are elected, they are not required to use feedback from the general public to create policy changes.
Unfortunately, political roadblocks occur frequently, with some politicians prioritizing their own interests (and the interests of large oil companies) and others trying to stay in the good graces of their political parties. Additionally, bipartisanship is on the decline and politicians often struggle to find common ground, even on major issues such as renewable energy.
It’s All About the Economics
At the end of the day, political roadblocks to renewable energy occur mostly due to macroeconomics. In our capitalist society, the goal of everything is to generate profit. Although renewable energy can help create jobs and ultimately save trillions of dollars globally, the upfront costs give people pause.
Sweeping changes tend to be unpopular, even if they represent a win-win. Renewable energy is cost-effective, reduces pollution, and improves the health of our planet. To help ensure the quality of life for future generations, political leaders need to take decisive action and use policies to help American companies and individuals make the switch to clean energy.