Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers released their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card and highlighted that the US ranging from aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, and levees has yet again got graded a D+ overall despite improvements in bridges which got graded a C+. It is astounding how our country lets these infrastructure problems go unsolved while they have no problem focusing too much on international affairs. The cracks in US infrastructure is disturbing. Over two-thirds of the roads are in poor condition and a quarter of bridges are in dire need of repair. Fixing these problems can help increase economic growth by adding workers to the already 14.5 million workers in construction and plant operations jobs. We need to have an infrastructure that is sustainable and improve economic activity.
With the increase of urban populations worldwide, architects and planners are working hard to come up with green solutions to make cities; existing and new ones; more sustainable. About 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas today, but is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. Cities cover 2% of the world’s land area, but account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions with 30% of that coming from buildings. Based on observations, green building in the US has contributed to a 34% reduction in CO2. Compared to traditionally constructed buildings, LEED-certified buildings have lead to the following:
- 20% drop in maintenance costs.
- 17% higher occupancy rates.
- 25% less energy used.
- 11% drop in water usage.
Green cities also offer the health benefits related to productivity. People can benefit from noise reduction, doubled cognitive brain function with improved ventilation, more natural light, and fewer air pollutants. In the US, the electricity and transportation sectors accounts for about 31% and 26% of carbon pollution emissions respectively. Modernizing the electrical grid helps balance higher amounts of clean energy, decreases outages and improves efficiency. Therefore, as a whole, our nation can greatly benefit from investing in green cities and making our current cities greener. In addition, we also need to build more electrical charging stations and invest in technologies that could revolutionize high-speed rail and make it greener like the Hyperloop. We need to ensure that our cities are more pedestrian friendly by adopting more ride-share programs, bike paths, and make our existing transit systems greener and more efficient. Building green cities will lead to an increased quality of life that can incentivize economic growth.
Energy Independence From Fossil Fuels
For every billion dollars invested in energy efficiency upgrades we can create ten times as many jobs as we would create from the same investments in coal. Investments in clean energy technologies will also keep jobs in America and prevent harm to the economy by preventing the worst impacts of climate change. Like the name of our political party, we strongly support efforts to develop and deploy clean, sustainable energy technologies like energy efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal.
As a nation, we need to adopt the following goals:
- Work toward a 100% clean energy system and create millions of jobs.
- Invest in clean, sustainable energy sources powered by the sun, wind and Earth’s heat.
- Invest in advanced renewable fuels and keep our energy dollars at home.
- Invest in solar energy and put money back in the pockets of consumers.
- Invest in making all American homes more energy efficient.
Solar Roadways Initiative
In addition to major infrastructure improvements, we believe that investing in solar roads can potentially be a great step in getting our nation closer to energy independence. This technology holds lots of promise for helping to contribute to greater energy efficiency for our nation as a whole. The panels of these solar roads contain embedded LED lights that can act as road and warning signs, use gathered energy to melt snow and ice on the roads, and make it easier and more convenient for electric vehicles to charge. US Energy Information Administration states that primary energy consumption in the US has almost tripled from 1949 to 2014. Primary energy includes petroleum, natural gas, nuclear fuel, and renewable energy and electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated from these power sources. In 2016, the total energy consumption was 97.39 quadrillion Btus. Petroleum still accounts for the largest share in US primary energy consumption followed by natural gas, coal, and renewable energy. With renewable and clean sources of energy holding great promise to revolutionize the way we use energy, why are we still relying on dirty sources of energy? Solar roadways offer a viable alternative because it has the ability to cut half of greenhouse gas production if adopted. Taking advantage of such a technology will allow us to reduce pollution and its effects on climate change, make the energy grid more decentralized and allow flexibility, get rid of dangerous electrical lines, and will allow electric vehicles to be more environmentally-friendly since current electric charging stations still rely on primary energy that mostly consists of petroleum and natural gas.