Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Seek Friendly Government Involvement

State, local and federal governments play a key role in shaping where our energy comes from and how it is used. When initiating new strategies to reduce your carbon footprint, a request for government involvement can increase the impact many thousands of times over.

| November 23, 2012

  • Reduce Carbon Emissions
    “Cooler Smarter,” by the Union of Concerned Scientists, is an empowering guide that shows which changes in our lifestyles will make the biggest difference to the climate. 
    Cover Courtesy Island Press

  • Reduce Carbon Emissions

While routine decisions that shape our days — what to have for dinner, where to shop, how to get to work — may seem small, collectively they have a big effect on global warming. Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living (Island Press, 2012), based on a comprehensive two-year study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains how to make the biggest impact and when not to sweat the small stuff. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 11, “Making Government Work for Us.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Cooler Smarter.

Making Government Work for Us

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

—Helen Keller 

You have made a number of effective climate choices in your own life. You’ve spread the word to friends, family members, and coworkers. Now it’s time to make sure your elected officials hear your voice, too. From our cities or towns to state and federal government, officials are making decisions on our behalf and with our tax dollars. Put simply, these funds can be spent to improve our energy future or to impoverish it. Along the way, especially in Washington, DC, lobbyists help protect companies that benefit from continued reliance on coal, oil, and gas, regardless of its longterm impact on the environment or the U.S. economy, blocking renewable energy and delaying energy efficiency measures and other efforts to limit carbon emissions.

Listening to the rhetoric of oil, coal, and gas company executives, one might think they were champions of limited government and the free market. But in truth, fossil fuel companies are heavily subsidized. Their enormous profits would shrink considerably without federal support. According to a study by the Environmental Law Institute, the U.S. government provided the industry with $72 billion between 2002 and 2008, mostly in the form of permanent tax credits for producers of oil, coal, and natural gas. That’s twice the total of direct subsidies and tax breaks that renewable energy received in the same period. If we hope to reduce carbon emissions, we need to reverse these priorities right away and devote our resources to developing clean energy instead of subsidizing emissions as usual.

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