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Jack Zoucha of Wilsonville is the Oregon Institute of Technology's student president.

Jack ZouchaAs the world's energy consumption grows larger every day, we face a huge challenge of adapting to the needs of a modern world. In the past 20 years alone, our energy consumption has grown by more than 40% and is continuing to grow exponentially. The world added 179 GW of renewable generating capacity in 2018 and 176 GW in 2019, however renewables still account for just 34.7% of all global generating capacity.

We do have the current capacity to create enough energy, however known oil deposits could run out in just over 53 years, gas reserves in just 52, and known coal deposits could be gone in 150 years.

The consequences of fossil fuels can be seen all over the world, economically, socially and politically. There are droughts and wildfires in some parts of the world and floods and hurricanes in others, destroying food and freshwater supplies along with habitable land.

As a developed country with decent infrastructure, the physical risks to Americans are minimal — but the financial risks are extremely alarming, yet mostly unspoken. The National Resource Defense Council estimates that hurricanes, droughts, real estate losses, and energy costs could cost the United States. an additional $1.9 trillion per year by 2100, and that amount almost doubles when wildfire damage and health costs are added in.

Financially, fossil fuels, and the risks associated with them, should be a thing of the past. Despite what some of renewables' fiercest critics may say, it's not going to cost $100 trillion to convert to 100% renewable energy. One study by energy research firm, Wood Mackenzie, put the total cost at $4.5 trillion by 2040, while another by the American Action Forum put the price tag closer to $10 trillion in costs by 2050. Both studies are very rough estimates, based on completely replacing energy currently produced by fossil fuels, and additional transmission lines to cover the variability of renewable source.

At first glance, that may seem like a daunting number, but let's put that into perspective — the United States already spends as much as 10% GDP on energy annually, and switching to 100% renewables would cost the U.S. about $500 billion per year for the next 20 years — less than 1% of the GDP.

Renewable energy would drastically lower our energy spending, make electricity up to 90% cheaper, reduce our dependance on foreign oil, and erase our vulnerability in global oil markets. Switching to renewable energy could save almost $300 billion/year on agriculture and manufacturing costs and an additional $1.9 trillion per year in environmental damages, while creating millions of jobs right here in the U.S.

By setting the example, we could show the world that climate change is a battle we can win.

There is no real reason to avoid the change to renewable energy, we're running out of fossil fuels anyway. It's been proven that the environmental, social and economic risks of not going green far outweigh the financial burden we would face during the transition. The real problem is not the cost, it's our country's leadership refusing to change.

For our future, for our kids' future, and for the planet's future — get out and vote for candidates that support renewable energy policies and agendas.

Jack Zoucha of Wilsonville is the Oregon Institute of Technology's student president.

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