This year, Earth Day is different.
We have a choice to make.
Decisions over the coming weeks will impact the energy policy of the United States for decades to come. So, what is going on?
It all began Monday, April 20th.
West Texas Intermediate Futures (WTI), the benchmark for US oil, closed at a negative value, $-37.60, for the first time ever. Demand for oil has collapsed during the COVID-19 lockdown, resulting in oil producers in Texas running out of storage space and literally paying buyers to take oil off their hands.
On Tuesday, April 21st, the WTI climbed back above $0 to a measly $10.10 per barrel, an 86% drop from January highs.
This collapse in US oil markets has shown us President Obama's approach to achieving US energy independence - through a massive expansion of domestic fracking - was shortsighted.
Now, President Trump appears primed to make the same mistake as he assures fossil fuel companies he will bail them out to guarantee their long-term viability.
He is promising something he can't deliver. We just saw the value of US oil momentarily wiped off the map because of oil price wars between Russia and OPEC that we have no control over.
Here is the truth: as long as America runs on oil, we will never truly be energy independent.
True energy independence means liberating every American from their monopolistic energy utility company and international price wars. The best way to accomplish this is with residential and community solar and wind.
Consider this: current direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies total more than $600 billion annually. That's $6 trillion every 10 years indirectly and directly propping up the fossil fuel industry. Yet, here the industry is, in need of a bailout.
Meanwhile, Yale University has put forward research showing it would cost $4.5 trillion to convert our energy grid to 100% renewables in just 10 years. Imagine shifting the existing direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, to renewables. We would save trillions of dollars while reducing long-term government involvement in the energy sector since solar and wind are self-sufficient once the initial costs are paid off.
The benefits go even further: no more poisoned water from fracking. No more oil spills destroying our waterways, coastlines, and wildlife. No more oil price wars.
This is real energy independence that puts power, literally, in the hands of the people.
Any funding used to the effect of "bailing out" the fossil fuel industry must only bailout the workers, not the corporations, stuck in this dying industry. Provide retirement pensions for long-term industry veterans. For others in the industry, provide temporary pensions and the choice of transitional training with a job guaranteed in the clean energy economy or a free public higher education to enter a new industry altogether.
The rest of the funds must go toward bold investments in our renewable energy future.
Bring the workers and unions to the negotiating table to help decide the precise parameters and let us put millions of Americans to work building a green energy grid.
This year, Earth Day is different. We have a choice to make:
Double down on fossil fuels and bail out a dying industry or invest in our workers, real energy independence, and a habitable planet?
Which version of the future will you fight for this Earth Day and in the coming elections?