Ecological Sustainability from 2004 GPUS Platform
This is one of the "10 Key Values" of the Green Party. For the complete platform, go to http://www.gp.org/platform.shtml
III. ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY
The human community is an element of the Earth community, not the other way around. All human endeavors are situated within the dynamics of the biosphere. If we wish to have sustainable institutions and enterprises, they must fit well with the processes of the Earth. The ideology of industrialism, in both capitalist and communist countries, insists that modern society lives on top of nature and should rightly use and despoil the rest of the natural world as we desire - because any loss of the ecosystems is merely an "externality" in economic thought and because any problems can be addressed later by a technological fix. We are now living through the painful consequences of that arrogant, ignorant perspective. Many of our children suffer from accumulations of mercury and other toxins in their neurological systems, environmentally related cancer is on the rise, and our air and water are increasingly polluted. Meanwhile, our ecosystems are being compromised by the spreading presence of genetically engineered organisms.
Our houses and buildings, manufacturing processes, and industrial agriculture were all designed with the assumption of an endless supply of cheap and readily available fossil fuels. Pollution and despoiling the land were not part of the thinking. The Green Party, however, is optimistic about the alternatives that now exist and that could be encouraged through tax policy and the market incentives of fuel efficiency. We also challenge the grip of the oil, automotive, and automobile insurance industries that have managed to block or roll back progress in public mass transit. The gutting of subsidies for the railroads has meant not only fewer passenger routes but also the addition of thousands of large freight trucks on our highways, decreasing public safety and increasing pollution. We are committed to extending the greening of waste management by encouraging the spread of such practices as reduce, return, reuse, and recycle. We strongly oppose the recent attempts to roll back the federal environmental protection laws that safeguard our air, water, and soil.
The health of the life-support systems - the ecosystems on our continent - is of paramount importance. Inherent in the efficient dynamics of those ecosystems is a vital profusion of biodiversity. Therefore, the Greens call for a halt to the destruction of habitats, which are being sacrificed to unqualified economic expansion. We humans have a moral responsibility to all of our relations, many of which are facing extinction because we carelessly and permanently halt their long evolutionary journey.
The Green Party also supports the spread of organic agriculture and the careful tending of our nation's precious remaining topsoil. We support planetary efforts to slow the ever-increasing numbers of humans pressuring the ecosystems, and we especially support the reduction of consumption of the world's raw materials by the industrialized Northern Hemisphere. We are appalled by our country's withdrawal from serious efforts to limit greenhouse gases that are contributing mightily to global climate disruption. The Green Party strongly urges the United States to adopt an actively responsible position in this crisis and to take significant action to address the problem.
A. Energy Policy
We advocate strong energy policies at all levels of government to shift decisively away from polluting energy systems towards reduced energy use and clean energy sources.
We oppose energy utility deregulation. We support strong protections for electricity and natural gas consumers. These protections can only occur in a locally-controlled, fully regulated energy system that directly links generation with transmission and distribution. We recognize that deregulation and its reliance on markets - as opposed to state-based regulations - is incapable of providing affordable, reliable and clean energy. We support state efforts to regain control over electricity by establishing democratic, public control systems to locally coordinate supply and demand and by eliminating energy trading. Consumers deserve full disclosure of the specific electric generating facilities used to produce their electricity. We support net-metering to make decentralized energy production economically viable.
Energy management must be governed by the principle of conservation, efficiency, and clean renewables. Of highest importance is to use less, then to use wisely, and to have clean production of what is used. We advocate strong public policies to widely deploy conservation, efficiency, and clean renewable energy technologies. Examples include tax credits, renewable portfolio standards, research programs, loans and grants. Existing policies that currently benefit nuclear power, combustion technologies or large hydroelectric dams should be eliminated and reallocated to conservation, efficiency, wind and solar power.
Conservation and Efficiency
1. Extensive conservation measures will bring huge resource savings for both the economy and the environment. Europe already consumes less than half of the electricity consumed per capita in the U.S. We call for extensive energy conservation efforts, with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 50% in 20 years.
2. We support efforts to decentralize regional electric grids by promoting energy efficiency and localized clean renewable energy. Tax-exempt bonds should be authorized to finance public ownership of utilities and to allow publicly owned utilities to finance conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects.
3. The U.S. is blessed with tremendous renewable energy potential, enough to meet the entire electric demand of the country. We call for a Manhattan Project-level of commitment to developing clean renewable energy technologies - technologies that do not create pollution in the course of generating electricity. These can include wind, solar, ocean power, geothermal, and small-scale hydro. Since even clean renewable energy can have negative environmental impacts, care must be taken to minimize such impacts. Clean renewable energy does not include nuclear power, any sort of combustion or process in which by-products are ultimately combusted, or hydroelectric dams that block entire rivers.
4. The Green Party calls for federal commitment to the mass-production of cheap, non-toxic solar photovoltaic technology to enable widespread deployment of solar power. To make solar more cost-competitive, we support large-scale government purchases of solar cells for installation on government facilities.
5. We support efforts of individuals and institutions to voluntarily purchase wind and solar power products through tradable renewable energy certificates. However, there are limits to the volunteer, market-based approach to promoting clean energy. Just as we cannot expect that individual purchases of organic food will cause all food production to become organic, we cannot expect that voluntary approaches will be sufficient to fully replace current energy supplies with clean energy, since only a tiny percentage of the energy supply can be affected by a volunteer purchasing approach.
Fuels for Transportation and Heating
6. Oil and gas are the primary fuels used for transportation and heating. U.S. dependence on oil and gas has driven an unparalleled assault on the global environment and on human rights in many nations. We call for major reductions in fuel consumption as we prepare for a fuel system based on clean hydrogen production and the use of fuel cells.
7. We support the use of hydrogen as an energy storage medium, which makes it possible to operate a decentralized grid on intermittent energy generation methods, such as solar and wind. Fuel cells (using hydrogen sourced from water and separated by electrolysis with power provided by clean, renewable energy technologies) should be used to efficiently distribute electricity as needed. We oppose the use of nuclear technologies or carbon-based feedstocks for hydrogen production.
8. We oppose the development of environmentally-destructive "alternative" fuels produced from unsustainable or toxic feedstocks, such as genetically-engineered crops, coal, or waste streams contaminated with persistent toxins.
9. With regard to heating fuels, we support building codes for new construction that incorporate the best available energy conservation designs. New construction should be required to achieve substantial portions of its heating energy from the sun. For existing homes and buildings, we support programs to aid in their weatherization and increased energy efficiency.
10. We oppose further oil and gas drilling or exploration on our nation's outer continental shelf, on our public lands, in the Rocky Mountains, and under the Great Lakes.
B. Nuclear Issues
1. The Green Party recognizes that there is no such thing as nuclear waste "disposal." All six of the "low-level" nuclear waste dumps in the United States have leaked. There are no technological quick fixes that can effectively isolate nuclear waste from the biosphere for the duration of its hazardous life. Therefore, it is essential that generation of additional nuclear wastes be stopped.
2. The Green Party calls for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible (in no more than five years), and for a phase-out of other technologies that use or produce nuclear waste. These technologies include non-commercial nuclear reactors, reprocessing facilities, nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all commercial and military uses of depleted uranium.
3. Current methods of underground storage are a danger to present and future generations. Any nuclear waste management strategies must be above ground, continuously monitored, and they must minimize transportation of wastes.
4. The Green Party strongly opposes any shipment of high-level nuclear waste across the to the proposed Nevada waste repository at Yucca Mountain, or any other centralized facility. The Green Party believes that this proposal is part of a move to re-fire a fast-track, commercial nuclear industry by providing a means for "safe disposal." We deny there is such a thing as safe disposal of nuclear waste.
We propose making spent reactor fuel and other high level wastes safer by vitrification at the site where it is produced or now stored.
5. We call for cancellation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's first weapons complex nuclear dump in southern New Mexico.
6. We call for independent, public-access radiation monitoring at all nuclear facilities.
7. We support applicable environmental impact statements and National Environmental Policy Act analysis with citizen participation at all nuclear sites.
8. We support an immediate and intensive campaign to educate the public about nuclear problems, including disposal, clean-up, and long-term dangers.
9. We oppose the export of nuclear technologies or their wastes to other nations.
10. We oppose public subsidies for nuclear power, including Price-Anderson insurance caps and stranded cost recovery bailouts.
11. We oppose the development and use of new nuclear reactors, plutonium (MOX) fuel, nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear fusion, uranium enrichment, and the manufacturing of new plutonium pits for a new generation of nuclear weapons.
12. We oppose the deregulation of radioactive materials and wastes, which is allowing such wastes to be recycled into consumer products and to enter municipal waste landfills and incinerators. We call for the strict regulation, tracking, monitoring, and recapturing of radioactive materials and wastes.
13. We call on the military to clean up depleted uranium contamination from testing ranges and battlefields, and to fully compensate exposed veterans and civilians who have been affected by depleted uranium exposure in the U.S. and elsewhere.
We need ecologically sound forms of transportation that minimize pollution and maximize energy efficiency. Surfaces impermeable to rainwater, polluted storm run-off; paved over or polluted wetlands, the heat island effect, air pollution, and acid rain are all directly related to a transportation system run amuck.
Massive subsidies to the auto and fossil fuel industries, as well as an unworkable approach by urban planners, maintain the auto's dominance of our cityscapes. The present-day approach of upgrading streets to accommodate increased traffic generates new traffic because access is now easier, and people will now take jobs further from their homes or purchase homes further from their jobs. Some people shift from public transit to private cars due to the trip time in cars being shorter. As patronage for public transit decreases, public transit loses funding, becomes less viable, and service deteriorates thus encouraging even more people to use their cars.
To counteract these trends and reduce auto use, the Green Party advocates the following strategies:
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
1. Make streets, neighborhoods and commercial districts more pedestrian friendly.
2. Increase the greenery of streets.
3. Utilize traffic-calming methods, where the design of streets promotes safe speeds and safe interaction with pedestrians. Create auto-free zones.
4. Develop extensive networks of bikeways, bicycle lanes and paths. Include bike racks on all public transit.
5. Maintain free community bicycle fleets, and provide necessary support for cyclists.
6. Redirect resources that currently go to enhancing auto capacity into expanding human-scale transit options.
7. Develop affordable mass transit systems that are more economical to use than private vehicles.
8. Encourage employer subsidies of transit commuter tickets for employees, funded by government Congestion Management grants.
9. Use existing auto infrastructure for transit expansion where possible. Light rail could be established in expressway medians through metropolitan high density corridors.
10. Include land use decisions in transportation issues, with consideration of the need for mass transit to have a market and be viable, and with attention paid to cross-commuting - the practice of people commuting to a place where they could and should live.
11. Expand our country's network of rail lines, including high speed regional passenger service.
12. Place a moratorium on highway widening then use the money for mass transit and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.
13. Mandate HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on freeways, and lower toll fees for carpools.
14. Discourage unnecessary auto use by eliminating free parking in non-residential areas well served by mass transit, and establish preferential parking rates for HOV.
15. Substantially increase the taxes on gasoline, but allow some compensation for low income drivers.
16. Support ambitious increases in motor vehicle fuel efficiency, including the use of hybrid electric designs. Legislate a "gas guzzler" tax on new vehicles that get a lower MPG than the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards and offer "gas sipper" rebates for vehicles that get a higher MPG.
17. Schedule an increase in CAFE standards to 60 MPG for cars and 45 MPG for light trucks by the year 2010.
18. Develop and market to the general public fuel efficient cars as well as solar, electric and other non-fossil fuel powered vehicles for local travel. Support government procurement of high efficiency motor vehicles. Electric components of vehicles should not be put "on the grid" while we still have polluting electricity generation sources providing power to that grid.
19. Encourage carpooling programs, telecommuting, and other creative solutions to reduce commuter traffic congestion. We advocate fair buy-backs of the most polluting and least efficient vehicles to remove them from the road.
20. Make airports accessible by local transit systems.
21. Legislate further incremental reductions in airplane noise and air pollution.
22. Emphasize the use of light and heavy rail for freight transportation.
23. We call for incentives to get long-distance truck hauling off of our highways and on to railways. We favor the removal of any administrative impediments to efficient long-haul freight transport by rail. Time is lost when switching goods from one railroad to another, even when the trains are the same size and gauge, and this waste can be eliminated.