Why Isn’t America Green?

Rebecca Jolius, Editor

      As America races into the future with advanced technology and a generation fixated on sustainable, renewable energy, why isn’t America green yet? Compared to its’ first world peers, America isn’t leading the race in green technology, including electric automobiles and public transportation as well as the consumption of renewable energy such as solar power. European and Asian countries are already ahead in electric rail, investing in electric cars and buses, and on the playing field with America in solar power. But what’s stopping America from leading it’s competitors in this field? Well the short answer is cost and politics. Here’s the long answer:

Electric buses and high-speed rail are two up and coming industries that spark American interest. China has ordered 260x more electric buses in 2018 compared to America in an attempt to reduce fossil fuel emissions and handle its smog problems. America only ordered 300 buses in 2018, but there’s little political motivation to increase the number. According to CNBC, New York City wants to go electric by 2040 and California requires all new bus fleets to zero emissions. However a future of high-speed rail has more political turbulence. Despite the fact that high-speed rail would be a lower emission way of travelling and is extremely commonplace in Europe and Asia, as it’s more normal than not to travel on 200mph on a train, high speed rail would be a very expensive project. All infrastructure projects are expensive, but high speed rail is especially difficult now with private and public land disputes as well as working around poorly shaped land. China and Japan have plenty flatlands that make it easy for high speed rail construction. To make it harder, the future of lower emissions rail has to work against the auto, aviation and oil lobbies. “So you have the politics, the message shaping and then the straight advertising and all three of those coordinate and work together to keep America kind of focused on cars and not focused on rail”  (“Why the US Has No High-Speed” 10:08).

      Solar power is more widespread and used in America, as there is more political and scientific motivation to spread renewable energy in the United States. The main problem facing solar power is longevity, how to save the excess energy for later. “Energy storage is sort of the last puzzle piece to come together to make solar and wind, any intermittent source, a reality for 100 percent of our needs” (“the Rise of Solar Power” 5:05). Most homes that have solar panels only use the energy during the day and use their primary energy source, electricity and natural gas, for the rest of the day that the sun is not shining. Lithium-ion batteries are the main battery in solar panels, but are not cost effective in the long run for when the sun isn’t present unlike natural gas. It gets more expensive if you’re planning to save solar energy for weeks and months, an unrealistic cost for consumers. However, researchers are looking into alternative sources for solar panel batteries that will be more cost-effective for saving solar energy. As this is one path for a sustainable, renewable future, it also seems like America simply doesn’t “want” to be green, but that might be changing. 


Works Cited

“the Rise of Solar Power.” Youtube, uploaded by CNBC, 21 Sept. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=od5yWB5aE0c. Accessed 2 Dec. 2019.

“Why the US Has No High-Speed Rail.” Youtube, uploaded by CNBC, 7 May 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qaf6baEu0_w. Accessed 2 Dec. 2019.