Jun 24 2016

Why is the United States Lagging Behind in Renewable Energy?

From May 7 to May 11, 2016, Portugal made history. The entire country was powered solely through a combination of “solar panels, wind turbines, biofuels, geothermal heat and hydroelectric power” (Bird). In other words, renewable energy alone kept the nation running for four days!

Portugal – Care2.com

Portugal is not alone in their ambitious endeavors with renewable energy. Numerous countries around Europe have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollutants by setting and meeting “ever-better renewable energy goals” (Bird). These countries include but are not limited to: Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark etc. Each of these nations have different goals of varying magnitudes, but they are definitely making the steps necessary for a transition over to green and renewable energy.

Unfortunately, the United States has been lagging behind its European counterparts in regards to renewable energy policies, implementation and technologies. Whereas many European nations extract 1/3 to ½ of their energy from renewable resources, the United States only gets around 12% of its energy as a form of renewable energy. As Professor E. Donald Elliot of Yale Law School states, the apathetic nature of the United States towards renewable energy lies “deep in our political structure and political culture, as well as our natural endowment of huge resources of fossil energy, including shale gas and unconventional oil.”

Due to the nature of our government here in the United States, it is nearly impossible to get the two major parties of our government to cooperate and get things done. With only two parties vying for power and because they seem inclined to disagree over everything, making the passing of every policy or plan a grueling, tedious and, sometimes, fruitless task. The issue of renewable energy is no exception with many Democrats being “highly skeptical that dispersed consumers can get enough information to make smarts decisions” and Republicans arguing that “energy choices should be left to the market”. (3 Elliot) For economic, environmental, and just pure survival reasons, the United States needs to step up its game and gain a foothold in the green energy industry before it is too late. The transition will happen regardless of American reluctance, as evidenced by Europe’s progress and China’s rapidly growing investment and implementation of multiple types of renewable energy within its’ borders (Ma). The graph below depicts the total capacity of wind power installed in China from 2001 until 2012.


Becoming a leader of the green energy revolution would allow the United States to gain a significant economic advantage in this evolving industry..

If the government cannot move, then it is up to the people. However, although a lot of the obstacles to implementing a renewable energy policy related to our political structure,  some of them, like America’s misconception of low and high gas prices, are ideologies entrenched within American society that are enforced by lack of education and knowledge of climate change. In order for our country to make a change and become more invested in renewable energy as well as the future, the general public must be informed and educated to avoid such misconceptions. This way, the two parties will hopefully be able to find common ground through the interests of the people and take the necessary steps in order to establish a future that generations to come will be glad to call home.



Bird, Susan. “Using Only Renewable Energy, Portugal Powered Its Entire Country for Four Days.” Care2.com. Care2, 21 June 2016. Web. 24 June 2016.
Elliott, Donald E., Dr. “Why the United States Does Not Have a Renewable Energy Policy.” Environmental Law Institute (2013): 1-7. Web. 24 June 2016.
Ma, Damien. “Re-balancing China’s Energy Strategy.” Paulsoninstitute.org. The Paulson      Institute, 2015. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.paulsoninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/PPEE_Rebalancing-Chinas-Energy-Strategy_Ma_English.pdf>.


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