A 2013 study by MIT found that air pollution causes 200,000 Americans a year to die prematurely. That makes air pollution, indirectly, the 3rd largest cause of death in America. More than half of these are attributed to road transportation (53,000) and power generation (52,000). I find that to be extremely alarming.
We need to do all we can within reason to limit this pollution in order to keep Americans safe. The economy should not make us hesitant about this. Americans have the ingenuity to adapt and overcome. In 1870, nearly half of all US workers worked in agriculture. From 2004-2014, it was down to 1.5%, yet our economy is significantly larger and stronger than it was in 1980. We need to stay on the cutting edge and lead into new economic areas, not fight to maintain the jobs of the past. When our industries become obsolete, we find newer, better industries.
In the state of Wisconsin, as of January 2017, we had 38,110 workers employed in traditional energy. In comparison, we had 62,289 employed in energy efficiency. In the whole country, when looking at electricity production, solar energy jobs alone outnumber coal, oil, and gas combined. I am not looking to intentionally kill industries, but we cannot prop up dying industries at the expense of the health and well-being of the American people. We cannot simply forget those who work in traditional energies, and we need to help them to transition as the energy market changes, but energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are the energy market of the future and where we should be making our investments.
As for road pollution, we should be pushing for cleaner, more efficient cars. Electric vehicles have their limitations, like range, charging time, and lack of infrastructure, which make them currently impractical in rural areas, but we need to overcome that. If we don’t, others will, and we will fall behind. Sweden’s Volvo has announced that they will not produce any more diesel or gasoline internal combustion engines after 2019. Germany’s Mercedes-Benz just became the first company to launch an electric semi-truck, ahead of Tesla, who is also working on one. Diesel and gas bans have been proposed and approved around Europe and Asia. France and the UK will be completely diesel and gas free by 2040, and many cities have implemented bans much sooner. China has implemented aggressive quotas on electric car sales. In April 2017, Tesla passed up GM to become the most valuable US automobile manufacturer. In June, Tesla passed up BMW to become the 4th most valuable manufacturer in the world. The global trend toward electric automobiles goes beyond policy, and if we continue to pretend that government policy can protect declining industries, not only will we suffer by breathing in pollutants that kill 200,000 Americans a year, but American car manufacturers, with the exception of Tesla, and the American energy industry will suffer globally.