America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to a Safer Climate Future

In this comprehensive analysis, completed in partnership with E3, NRDC shows that the United States can help curb climate change and cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 with an ambitious, but realistic, increase in clean energy. This reduction can be achieved almost entirely with tools that we have at our fingertips today. NRDC’s 80 percent by 2050 approach relied on four key emission reduction strategies, though the first three strategies take us 90 percent of the way:

  • We cut energy use by almost half through more ambitious investments in efficient and/or electric vehicles, appliance, buildings, and industrial plants. If we use less energy to begin with, we will automatically shrink the need for fossil fuels to heat our homes or power our gadgets. Less use of fossil fuels means less harmful and climate-changing pollution. Waste less, use less, pollute less!
  • We dramatically expand renewable energy so that wind and solar power represent at least 70 percent of our electricity mix by 2050—renewable energy, as a whole, will account for at least 80 percent.
  • We use this near-zero-carbon electricity to displace direct use of fossil fuels. Think electric vehicles that charge overnight using wind power or electric heat pumps instead of natural gas heating in our homes.
  • For those stubborn, remaining uses that are currently hard to replace with electricity (e.g., airplanes, trucks, and steel manufacturing), we move to lower-carbon fuels such as clean biofuels produced from sustainable biomass.

To support this diversified, decarbonized energy supply, we have to build a stronger, modernized electricity grid that can better support renewable energy resources and energy efficiency. These investments in our energy infrastructure can also make our grid more resilient to extreme weather.

We don’t need to wait for breakthroughs. We have all the tools we need, but we must act now. What we propose here is nothing less than a revolution, but since when have Americans shied away from a revolution?

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