Save the climate; grow the economy
Happy Friday! Perceptive Cliffnotes readers may have noticed that I’ve moved to writing this blog every other week. Frankly, my sanity and marriage depended on my not staying up til the wee hours every Thursday night banging this out – plus there are all kinds of new and exciting resources out there providing much more timely (and often more intelligent) analysis of California’s energy and climate landscape.
One great new site on the scene comes from the California Delivers Coalition, a group of businesses, workers, community and faith leaders, and public health advocates working to protect the Golden State’s landmark policies. Right now the site, www.cadelivers.org, is mostly a landing page allowing supporters to join the coalition, but it also includes a great primer on AB32. Knowing some of the folks behind this effort, I have no doubt the site will be chock-full of information and resources soon, so keep an eye out.
It’s probably good that I’m scaling back my CA coverage since I’m so rarely here these days. Yesterday I flew back from NYC, where I attended a dinner with financial sector titans who are also environmentalists. No, the two aren’t mutually exclusive – economic growth and prosperity can indeed go hand in hand with policies to reduce carbon emissions and overall energy use. This week we saw a great report from the World Resources Institute on just this point: WRI looked in depth into five sectors of the U.S. economy and identified specific ways this country can reduce emissions while building a solid foundation for continued economic growth. In its analysis of electricity generation, energy efficiency, vehicles, natural gas production, and hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), the report found that reducing energy use and cutting emissions creates new markets for low-carbon technologies, and also saves consumers money that can be spent in other areas of the economy. I was happy to see the WRI folks point to vehicle standards that have helped consumers switch to more efficient cars, creating auto sector jobs and saving some drivers hundreds of dollars a month in gas bills – something I’ve nattered on about in countless previous posts and written about in our No Californian Left Behind paper.
Some might argue that these kinds of policies hamper growth because they lead to cuts in traditional fossil fuel industries. Not so fast. Let’s take low carbon fuel standards as an example: switching out high carbon fuels for lower-carbon alternatives, including electricity, creates technology jobs, and keeps most of the retail jobs at fueling or charging stations intact. Since it turns out that most of the oil industry’s jobs are in fact in retail, this should be a win-win. (Not to mention that the oil industry is global, so what’s consumed here doesn’t necessarily correlate to what’s produced here … but that’s a discussion for another day.)
Don’t take my word for it – a real Nobel Economist agrees. Jean Tirole, this year’s winner of Nobel Prize in economics is a strong proponent of an immediate and binding international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. His case is built not on polar bears, but on market dynamics: Dr. Tirole argues that it will be more costly and difficult to reign in emissions the longer we wait. An expert on the behavior of markets, Dr. Tirole also has spent much of his career challenging the assumption that markets always work better when left alone. Instead, he argues that it’s important to acknowledge and address through policy and regulation the fact that markets sometimes fail or are inefficient. In focusing his research in part on climate change, Dr. Tirole echoes something we also heard from Sir Nicholas Stern, another famous economist, in 2006: “Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.”
As if the wise words of two great economists aren’t enough to convince you of the positive economic power of climate solutions, here’s some evidence from the field: Solar Means Business, released this week from the Solar Energy Industry Association, details how America’s largest companies are investing in solar power as technology gets cheaper and moves quickly to scale. Businesses such as Walmart, Kohl’s, Costco, Apple, and IKEA are doubling down on their investments. The average price of a completed commercial PV project has dropped 45 percent since 2012 while average electricity prices for commercial users have been on a steady upward trend, increasing more than 20 percent over the past decade.
Unfortunately, the sun sometimes shines too hard on California. Two weeks ago I highlighted California’s increasingly severe drought, and recommended a couple of trusted non-profits providing services to families in need in the dry and desperate Central Valley: Self Help Enterprises and the Community Water Center.
I want to add one more organization to that list – a group that’s working on a simple, low-tech way to use less water at the household level. The Drop-A-Brick Project offers a simple and affordable way to shave water consumption and costs, and does so with a great sense of humor. What more can you ask for? Take a minute and watch the video, then do us all a favor and drop a brick in your toilet!
I can’t do better than to end this post on the word “toilet” so I’ll stop. More in a couple of weeks!