There is a better way:

Ten common sense solutions we can implement now

provided by The Sierra Club


    Acombination of common sense, commitment, and American in- genuity will enable the country to solve its environmental dilemmas and a combination of technology, enforcement and forward-looking political leadership will protect our children's natural inheritance.

    Here are ten common sense solutions we can begin to put in place now:

1. Build and drive more fuel efficient cars, trucks and SUVs


    We can reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, cut air pollution and our disproportionate 25% contribution to the global warming problem, slash our trade deficit, and save money at the gas pump by improving the technology of the vehicles we drive.

    The technology already exists. Even without converting our fleet to hybrid technology, the “freedom package” - an already available combination of more efficient engines, continuously variable transmissions, combined starter-alternators and lighter, stronger high tech body materials - would enable a Ford Explorer, which now gets 19 mpg, to get 35 mpg, with no loss of room, height or power - if Ford would only offer the package.

2. Build a twenty-first century energy industry, and reindustrialize America in doing so. 


    Adopt a clean energy policy that conserves energy, uses renewable power sources such as wind and solar energy to generate electricity and creates jobs. The Apollo Project, for example, is an alternative energy vision launched by a group of labor unions led by the Steelworkers, the Machinists, and the Electrical Workers. The Project calls for investing $300 billion over 10 years into a new clean energy economy, one based on innovation and efficiency. It envisages major investments in high performance building, more efficient factories, more energy efficient appliances and better mass transit as well as more efficient, hybrid vehicles. While this $300 billion is only a fraction of what America spends in a single year on imported oil, economic modeling showed that these programs could create 3 million new manufacturing jobs.

3. Install modern air pollution control equipment on old power plants, refineries and factories. 


    Basically, the Bush administration is allowing America's dirtiest power plants to keep polluting. Pollution control equipment has been proven to be quite effective in cutting power plant emissions - emissions that cause at least 30,000 deaths from respiratory illness and 600,000 asthma attacks a year. Forcing industry to use today's technology will save lives, clean up the air, and keep a commitment made 30 years ago.

4. Restore the principle of “Polluter Pays”


    Getting the Superfund program back up and running, and getting the polluters, not taxpayers, to pay for it, are the first steps. The cleanup of abandoned toxic dump sites was largely funded by a tax on oil, chemical and a general corporate excise tax - which expired in 1995. The cleanup trust fund ran out of polluter money in 2003, so now taxpayers are bearing the costs. Cleanups have been slowed by half since the Bush administration took office and there are still 1,200 sites threatened the health of our communities. If we can restore the tax, force polluters to clean up the messes they made, and return to the rate of cleaning up 80 of these sites a year, all of America's toxic dump sites can be cleaned up in 15 years.

5. Reinstate the environmental standards


    These standards protected our National Forests, rivers, wetlands, wildlife habitat and public lands up until January 21, 2001, when the Bush administration rescinded them - and opened up million of acres to the oil and gas, mining and logging companies.

6. Put the environmental cop back on the beat and save lives and money 


    Stop cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and enforcement of our clean air and water laws. Put the government back in the business of fulfilling its unique role of inspecting, monitoring and punishing polluters. “Voluntary compliance” is an oxymoron and does not work.

    The benefit of protecting our health and the environment, particularly reducing air pollution, far outweighs the costs. Environmental rules from the past ten years have generated as much as $230 billion in benefits (such as reduced sickness and lost work time), yet the rules only cost between $36 and $42 billion this according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

7. Save and Restore our Forests


    Focus the Forest Service on what ought to be Job One - protecting communities from fire. Redirect money now spent on logging our National Forests to fire prevention, specifically to creating Community Protection Zones - a half mile area around homes or towns that need to be cleared of brush and small trees to reduce the risk of wildfire. 

    Simultaneously we should phase out the Forest Service's commercial timber program, and begin managing our National Forest System exclusively for public benefits like wildlife, recreation and watershed protection. Most of America's best commercial timber land is already in private hands. We don't need to log our National Forests to meet our need for timber.

8. Keep the promise Congress made when it authorized oil and gas drilling off our coasts


    Use the royalties from those activities to fund the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund which purchases and protects wild lands and wildlife habitat.

9. Finish the job of separating storm water and sewage


    Deal with the problem of toxic runoff from farms, factory animal feed lot operations, logging and development.

    The water treatment programs of the Clean Water Act were one of the great environmental success stories of the 1970s and 1980s, but we still have thousands of beach closures every year because of inadequately treated sewage. One third of our waterways still have not met the swimmable and fishable standards of the Clean Water Act, and there is a huge backlog of unmet sewage treatment needs in many of our older cities.


10. Rejoin the world. 

    The rest of the world is waiting for the US to join the coalition of the environmentally willing. We should go back to the Kyoto Protocol table to help shape a plan to protect the planet from global warming. We ought to join, not block, such international initiatives as the proposed Convention to Reduce the Emissions of Mercury, an international treaty to protect rain forests and agreements on how to stop the overfishing of the world's oceans. And we must work to undo NAFTA, GATT and other trade agreements that ignore the necessity of elevating and exporting environmental protections.

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