To follow up on my last post regarding the positions the two presidential candidates are taking on energy and the environment, I am going to share some information that I recently read in Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book, That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind In The World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.
“If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” –Dick Cheney
The above statement relating to nuclear weapons, according to the authors, is the stance that we as a country should take when it comes to climate change. Americans disagree on global warming on many levels, some say it doesn’t exist, some say it does, some think it is a natural occurrence, some think it’s man-made, etc.. The point however, is that whatever particular position you may take on the issue, doing something about it will benefit the country regardless of the ultimate outcome of the situation. Like homeowners in Kansas buy insurance on their homes for tornadoes, something that is not certain but possible, so too should the country invest in “insurance” for global warming.
By investing in and gradually building an economy based on clean power, our response to climate change will not only provide “insurance” but will eventually become profitable. If we make investments in energy efficiency and global warming turns out to be less harmful than expected, what would happen? The result would be a transition period of higher energy prices, but lower energy bills. As new technologies providing clean power and greater efficiency achieve mass production, these prices would fall as well. In a 2009 report, Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy, the McKinsey found that if serious but affordable investments ($520 billion) were made in energy-efficiency measures through 2020, it would yield gross energy savings of more than $1.2 trillion, saving more than twice what it would cost.
Going further, clean energy is almost surely going to become the next great global industry. Even if global warming didn’t exist, the fact that the world population is increasing means that global demand for oil, coal, and gas will increase and become more expensive. By investing in the clean power industry and new technology to develop it, we could position ourselves to be a leader in the next big global industry. Currently China ($54 billion) and Germany ($41 billion) are ahead of the U.S. ($34 billion) in private investment and financing of clean energy. A major reason for this is they both use domestic policy to create internal demand. By setting higher efficiency standards for buildings, cars, and power plants in the U.S., we would trigger innovation by American companies, positioning ourselves to compete globally and bettering our country as a whole.
To summarize, let’s begin taking climate change seriously, whether you truly believe in its effects or not. Raising efficiency standards and investing in clean energy will not only provide us with “insurance”, but will save us money and help boost our economy. We all know we could use it!