Now is the right time to tackle global warming
In a video to governors attending a two-day summit on global warming in California, President-elect Barack Obama outlined his federal proposal to tackle global warming.
We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 level by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050.Further, we will invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future, Obama told governors in his video message.
Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all, Mr. Obama said. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.
Already there's enough greenhouse gas in the atmosphere to keep the planet warming even if the world's economies grind completely to a halt - and they haven't. Despite what slowdown there is in the global economy, people are still driving, keeping their homes warm or cool, businesses are still operating, power plants are still humming, factories still churning out goods and farmers still plowing their fields. Greenhouse gases are still being pumped into the air.
But you can almost hear coal and oil interests scream when Obama says he wants to start right away on global warming. It will cost businesses and consumers too much in higher energy costs. They're struggling with a recession. Higher energy costs will push them over the brink, push the economy over a cliff, those interests will say.
Not true, of course.
Right now the biggest thing the U.S. (and other economies) need is a next big thing. Green energy is it. The fifteen billion a year for 10 years that Obama wants to spend in the private sector on clean energy technologies is just a down payment on building new wind farms, solar power plants and others. That spending, along with any private capital scraped together, will create jobs and business opportunities. The American economy is built on jobs and opportunities. That's what we need right now.
Though it may seem on the surface that zero-emission energy generated from green technologies is more expensive than conventional sources and rate payers will have to pay the tab for it, in the long term the more green capacity that is built the cheaper it will get:Technologies will improve that will drive down costs. This is already happening.
Obama also for a cap-and-trade system to force power plant operators to cut emissions or buy the right to pollute. Cap-and-trade wasn't invented as an overnight solution to make those cuts. It was developed as a way to encourage the growth of cleaner technologies. In cap-and-trade programs those companies that are able to generate power with low emissions will benefit financially. Those who couldn't would pay. But, over time, those who can't cut initially might find it beneficial to their bottom line if instead of buying the right to pollute, they clean up their act. Again, over time, the cost of cleaner energy goes down and jobs and business opportunities go up as more companies adopt clean technologies.
He's also for a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Already we've seen an uptick in the development of renewable power capacity in states that have mandated the standards. While utilities forced by law to build or buy renewable capacity may grumble behind closed doors for being forced to build renewables, in front of the public they seem to like the idea of selling green energy. It's suddenly cool to be green. People like buying green power.
And again, as above, there are job and businesses opportunities every time a utility company builds more renewable capacity, whether they want to or are forced to by law.
Some utility companies, too, are seeing a new opportunity in going green: The opportunity to sell power they generate but don't sell. Plug-in vehicles will allow those companies that have excess off-peak power will be able to sell it for additional revenues. (And in the process they will contribute to overall emissions cuts.) Power companies may end up being the biggest promoters of electric and plug-in hybrid cars, again creating new job and business opportunities.
It is said that Obama, to tackle the economic crisis. will have to hit the ground running the day he's sworn into office. He has already said he wants to create 5 million new jobs in green energy. Those will begin to be created when he challenges global warming head on. Now is exactly, precisely the right time to do it.