Reducing Reliance on Fossil Fuels

The United States is currently reliant upon fossil fuels to meet our growing energy needs. We use coal for more than half of our electricity needs. Additionally, America's transportation system is overwhelmingly dependent on conventional petroleum oil, which is not only responsible for 20 percent of our global warming pollution, but also threatens our national security and our economic prosperity (we spend $1 billion every day on foreign oil).

The production and use of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation fuels are not only contributing to global warming, but they also cause health problems, destroy our wild places, and release toxics (such as mercury and arsenic) into our communities.

Developing clean and renewable energy, and innovative technology can help solve this problem.

Coal for Electricity

Coal is America's most abundant source of global warming pollution--and we have a lot of it in the United States. We currently use coal for over half of our growing electricity demand but this comes at a great cost to our environment and our health.

  • Pollution from burning coal is responsible for nearly 30% of the global warming pollution in the U.S. and it puts our communities and wild places at risk from dirty air (from mercury and other pollutants), acid rain, and a variety of health problems such as asthma and other respiratory diseases;
  • Coal mining (such as mountaintop removal) destroys vast amounts of land, pollutes our rivers and streams, and has significant environmental effects on local communities and wildlife.
  • Coal ash sludge, another by-product of burning coal, is stored in waste ponds all across the country. These ponds are leaking into our waterways, destroying entire ecosystems, and having traumatic effects on wildlife and our communities all across the country

What Are Dirty Fuels?

As conventional petroleum oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, industry and governments around the world are pushing to develop even dirtier fuels to power our transportation sector - tar sands, oil shale and coal-to-liquid.

Each of these unconventional dirty fuels emits high levels of global warming pollution and comes with a unique set of risks to human health, our landscapes, and our water resources.

National Wildlife Federation is working to stop a new generation of these super-polluting fuels before they become America's new energy addiction and further push the world's climate over the tipping point. Some of these super-polluters include:

Tar Sands

The U.S. is currently importing over 1.3 million barrels of the world's dirtiest fuel known as tar sands. Tar sands mining and extraction is responsible for the destruction of huge amounts of Canadian forest ecosystems, toxic contamination of massive amounts of fresh water, and significant increases in global warming pollutants into the atmosphere. Help fight the war against tar sands oil! Support our work to protect wildlife from the threat of a massive oil pipeline >>


Due to the abundant coal resources in the United States, proponents of "liquid coal" see this fuel as a long term, stable source for the transportation sector. However, the production of liquid coal proves otherwise: the process emits twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline and requires at least four gallons of water per gallon of fuel produced.

Oil Shale

A vast majority of the world's oil shale reserves can be found in the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Oil shale extraction is not only extremely cost, but it has also been shown to have significant environmental effects on local water and air quality, wildlife habitat, and energy use.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Each year, the U.S. provides billions of dollars in subsidies to companies in the fossil fuel sector. This taxpayer money could be better spent investing in renewable energy, like off-shore wind and solar, and energy efficiency which will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce hazardous pollution, and help spur new jobs in the clean energy sector.

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