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By Gary Crosby
I had the pleasure of attending the Carbon Shredders presentation at the Big Picture Theater last evening. It was an event that was both well attended and well presented. While the presentation laid out significant evidence pointing to the acceleration of global warming and correlating that warming to CO2 levels in our atmosphere, I think its single-minded theme was lacking, if the goal is to mobilize people to act.
Following the presentation, a weary group of attendees posed several
questions. One gentleman questioned the veracity of the scientific
findings, pointing out that the scientific community predicted our
demise with the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere during
the 1980s, said demise has yet to occur.
Another gentleman stated that the key was population control, pointing out that the CO2 levels and temperature rise correlated with population growth. One woman wondered aloud about how much evidence was needed to finally force our government to act. Another pointed out that 40 percent of greenhouse emissions are under our individual control, implying that the key was grassroots mobilization to raise awareness and affect change.
All who spoke did so with passion, illustrating that the issue, wherever you stand on it, is important to this little group of Vermonters.
This writer called attention to Thomas Friedman's book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. In this book Friedman points to scientific and anecdotal evidence that provides a powerful argument that the planet is indeed warming. But, unlike the Al Gore approach, Friedman does not bludgeon us with repeated images of shrinking glaciers, swelling rivers and dwindling ice sheets. He moves on to other more urgent proof points that lead to the conclusion that green is good.
Friedman frames the problem in economic and geo-political terms. He points out that, if the awakening masses in the under-developed world (read China, India and a bunch more) fuel the creation of their middle class using the same energy technology that we did, there will not be enough oil, coal, limestone, etc. to sustain that growth, creating economic chaos, competition and conflict over the discovery and defense of precious resources.
Conclusion: Developing alternative, renewable energy resources will reduce competition and conflict for finite resources.
Consider this logic: The United States fields the largest military force the world has ever seen, with a large portion of its assets defending energy sources. The controlling governments of these energy sources, in return, sell us the energy at reasonable rates, then take that money and fund people who try to kill us. So, we spend more money on bombs and bullets to kill the bad guys. Seems a little silly, doesn't it?
Conclusion: Energy self-sufficiency will allow us to spend less for guns, and more for butter.
Whenever we talk about the automotive industry, we produce a knee-jerk reaction that the people who run Ford, GM and Chrysler are stupid. Well, they are not. They run companies that sell cars primarily in America, where gas is cheap, roads are wide, parking spaces are large and where given the choice, people will buy the SUV over the Civic most of the time. They run companies that have been remarkably generous to their employees. When gas gets scarce, Americans run to Toyota and Honda, but when the gas gets turned on again, we run back to "road hugging weight."
Conclusion: Don't blame the auto companies, look in the mirror. (Note: I'll trade my SUV for a Prius when they pave Center Fayston Road!)
Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Peugeot, etc. all build cars for global markets, where gas is taxed to a high price, and adapt them to the U.S. market. The former Big Three build for America where gas is usually cheap but fluctuates wildly, and export opportunistically. At approximately $2 per gallon, gas costs twice as much as it did in 1979. Is there anything that you can think of that has merely doubled in price over the last 30 years?
If you are the CEO of a major corporation and are going to bet, let's say, a billion dollars on a car or any other technology that will only return a profit if fuel costs more than $4 per gallon, and you have no idea where gas prices are going to be next week, let alone next year, can you prudently make that investment? Remember, that is your money being wagered, because your 401k is tied up in that stock. The answer is no.
Conclusion: In order to spur investment in green, renewable resources there needs to be a floor price for finite resources.
So, if you really are serious about fostering a green revolution, here is your plan of action:
1. Petition your select board and write your congressman and tell them you want to eliminate zoning restrictions so you can install a windmill or solar panels on your property.
2. Write your congressman and tell him or her that you want a schedule for eliminating Middle East oil from our energy mix...the same kind of schedule you want for bringing our troops home.
3. If you can, buy an energy-efficient American car. They've gotten a lot better, really.
4. And this is the big one: Write your congressman and tell him you want fuel taxed to bring it up to $4 to $5 per gallon.
Without an energy floor, no U.S. investment in green technologies, no U.S. technology leadership, and no U.S. market leadership, more jobs are going overseas.
The time to invest is now, and we all need to invest. Call or write Bernie; he'll love to hear from you.
Crosby lives in Fayston.