Can you imagine a clean energy future?

Windmills on Michigan Avenue carry Earth Day message

Feature story - April 22, 2009
Greenpeace celebrated Earth Day by installing wind turbines — a symbol of clean energy — on the Michigan Ave. bridge in "the Windy City," Chicago, IL, hometown of President Obama. The wind turbine installation underscores the crucial role wind and other renewable energy sources must play in cutting global warming pollution, creating millions of jobs, and providing energy independence for all Americans.

We have the capacity to engineer a clean energy future in America, what we need now is the political and civic will to incorporate clean energy solutions into our communities in every way possible. This wind installation shows what the cities of the future might look like in a clean energy economy.

The time is ripe to make a transition to clean energy. The president's stimulus package provides much needed incentives to spark development in wind and solar energy technologies. What's more, House Democrats recently released a draft energy bill that would finally reduce global warming pollution from coal and other dirty energies and level the playing field for clean energy sources like wind and solar.

"Harnessing the wind is one of the cleanest, most sustainable ways to generate electricity. It produces no toxic emissions and none of the carbon dioxide pollution that is driving global warming. At the same time, the wind sector stands ready to employ millions of Americans and finally provide the country with real energy independence," said Nicole Granacki, Greenpeace's Illinois field organizer.

View slideshow of images from Chicago

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A clean and cost-effective alternative to coal

Pollution from coal-fired power plants, the country's biggest single source of the carbon dioxide emissions driving global warming,1 are also a major source of air pollution, responsible for 59 percent of total U.S. sulfur dioxide pollution and 18 percent of total nitrogen oxides released into our atmosphere every year.2 The plants are also the largest emitter of toxic mercury pollution3 and release about 50 percent of all particle pollution.4

Health impacts from coal pollution, including lung cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, asthma, and mercury poisoning, cost America billions of dollars every year in additional medical expenses. A 2004 study found that health impacts from fine particulate pollution alone cost the country $167 billion per year.5

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, stated that the East Coast's wind resources alone could replace most, if not all, coal-fired power plants in the United States.6 Wind power generation does not produce global warming pollution or lead to the smog, acid rain, mercury contamination and other dangerous environmental impacts caused by burning coal.7

In addition to being good for the planet, wind power is good for our economy. The Department of Energy estimates building up wind capacity in the Great Plains alone would produce 138,000 new jobs in the first year and more than 3.4 million new jobs over a ten-year period while meeting 20 percent of the country's electricity demands.8 The wind sector already employs more Americans than the coal industry.9

Innovations in wind technology have made it the new growth industry

• According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power could meet 20 percent of the country's electricity needs by 2030. See: windandhydro/pdfs/41869.pdf

• According to the Global Wind Energy Council, in 2008 the US wind sector broke all previous records with new installations of 8.5 GW, making America the world's top wind energy producer. See: id=30&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D= 139

• According to, the wind sector now employs more Americans than the coal industry. See:

http://greenwombat.blogs. wind-jobs-outstrip-the-coal- industry/

Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution

Greenpeace's blueprint to solve global warming, the Energy [R]evolution, shows how we can make the emissions cuts we need and meet the world's energy demands using renewable power sources, like wind, at half the cost and create twice the jobs as dirty energy.10

"On Earth Day we want people to begin to imagine renewable energy built into the architectural fabric of America's great cities and ask themselves 'Why not?  Why don't we have this already?'," said Carroll Muffett, Greenpeace's deputy campaigns director. "Clean energy is the energy of the future. But the best part is it's available today."

Learn more about Energy [R]evolution



1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005," April 2007. Based on calculation of CO2 emissions from tables 3-1 and 3-3

2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report." 2003. Appendix A

3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fact Sheet, "EPA to Regulate Mercury and Other Air Toxics Emissions from Coal- and Oil-Fired Power Plants." December 14, 2000.

4 Clean Air Task Force, "Children at Risk: How Air Pollution from Power Plants Threatens the Health of America's Children." May 2002. Available at

5 Schneider, Conrad G. "Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants." June 2004, p. 14.

6 "Salazar: Eastern wind could equal coal for power," AP, April 6, 2009,

7 Schneider, Conrad G. "Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants." June 2004, p. 14.

8 Dept. of Energy Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends (2007), see:

9 "Wind jobs outstrip coal mining.",

10 Energy [R]evolution, a sustainable USA energy outlook (2009),

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