Can Renewable Energy Fill the Gap?
One of the big questions hurled by the defenders of the fossil fuel age is that low-carbon energy technologies just can’t be ramped up to meet the burgeoning need of growing economies worldwide. And, of course, they shed alligator tears at this point over their concern for the billions of poor people yearning for refrigerators and cars who, they contend, would be left in poverty by the heartless “climate alarmists.” But it is a great question. Can we produce the energy for a vibrant, equitable economy without fossil fuels?
One answer comes from the Gigaton Throwdown project, supported by a Who’s Who of top clean energy investors and venture capital funds along with celebrity endorsements like former Senator and newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, who says, “This study is a loud, clear message about the importance of acting now to create a vibrant clean energy economy.”
Basic conclusions: it can be done with… (and here the other shoe drops) a very doable tripling of investment in a range of strategies, from building efficiency improvements to wind and nuclear, along with a “stable policy base” supporting the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Pricing carbon is the most critical of all these policies.
Mike Tidwell, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, writes here on the politics of replacing cap and trade or carbon pricing schemes with a “cap and dividend” approach that would charge ALL carbon emitters a price per ton and remit an equal share of collected funds directly to citizens. Tidwell cites his organization’s work in the field where cap and trade just confused people and fed into anti-government sentiment while the “cap and dividend” proposal seemed fair and simple, therefore gaining support even among conservative, rural populations.
Clean energy is just one of the benefits of switching to a low-carbon economy, as I’ve written here. There is also the opportunity to create millions of jobs at all skill levels (and you can’t offshore building efficiency upgrades!) as well as to increase household wealth by reducing wasting it on heating or cooling, boosting the quality of life of those that struggle to balance energy with food, healthcare and other essentials.