Not everyone thinks conserving is a good idea. Not everyone thinks efficiency is a good idea and not everyone favors renewable energy. But for those who do favor energy efficiency, conservation, renewables and far less pollution for themselves and the kids coming up; here are some ideas to vastly reduce the need for risky drilling, reduce coal pollution, reduce dependence on hostile sources of energy, reduce pollution from all sources and reduce nuclear risk.
Keep in mind as well that by orthodox economics, the less demand for a commodity (like gasoline), the less the price. The same can be said for natural gas.
The commonly known, easy things have gotten enough publicity. Here are some things most people probably do not know...
Solar water heating incorporated into a mortgage on a home is usually cost effective from payment one. The increased cost of the mortgage is more than offset by the energy savings from the solar water heater. The same thing is true for efficient architecture and high efficiency heating and cooling. If there were incentives to apartment builders to build efficient instead of cheap, the same could be true for renters. In the lower 48 United States and Hawaii, nearly everyone could get at least half their hot water, economically from the sun. In the sunny States like Florida and most of the West as well as Hawaii, nearly everyone could get more that 3/4 of their hot water from the sun. So could restaurants, laundries, food processing facilities and dairy. The solar hot water business languishes because it seem incapable of promoting itself and it is nearly ignored by the media. Instead, the media aims at solar electricity.
Only when the media aims at solar electricity, they espouse the hard fact that electricity from the sun costs more than electricity from coal...and most of the electricity in the USA is made from coal. However, solar electricity for transportation is already less expensive than gasoline. Driving on grid tied (connected to the electric utility) solar used for recharging or displacing fossil energy for recharging plug in vehicles costs less than $2.50/gallon, retail fossil fuel. By this writer's estimate, about $150B invested in solar electricity and plug in vehicles would get rid of the need for about 525B gallons of gasoline a year for 25 years.
At the same time, more goods moved cross country by trains instead of trucks would mean less fuel used and less wear and tear on roads. An argument could be made that such action hurts truckers but if rail roads were improved even to 1930's standards, many figure railroad could employ more people. Some might be truckers. About 100 years ago when a change was made from horses to the "horseless carriage", smart stables and liveries turned into car and truck dealerships. Back then, Ford argued with Edison over internal combustion versus electric. Now, plug in electric hybrids can bridge into a better future by combining both technologies. And solar electricity and wind can mostly eliminate the tailpipe to power plant smokestack argument.
Another change America could make is to insist on grass fed beef and dairy. Presently, beef and dairy are fattened on corn and much of the rest of the corn is fermented and distilled into alcohol for a gasoline additive. Growing all that corn requires massive amounts of fertilizer made from natural gas. Distilling all that corn to alcohol requires massive amounts of natural gas. While this may please vendors of natural gas, the fertilizer run-off down the Missisippi River watershed especially, creates a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico about the size of the BP spill. And there are some who would argue that Americans suffer health problems from eating all the corn fed beef and the less healthy dairy from corn instead of grass fed cows.
Finally, there is going to be a continuing need for base load electric power. In this writer's opinion, rather than invest in questionable plans for carbon sequestration and further engage in arguments over Carbon Dioxide as a climate change hazard, invest in carefully engineered and safe nuclear plants. Invest in genuine reductions in the hazards of both nuclear waste and nuclear weapons and engage in international cooperation to diminish the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation.