At yesterday’s Sustainable Industries Economic Forum, keynote presenter Paul Hawken was asked, “What is the best counterargument to the argument that carbon caps will raise energy costs and hurt our economy?” In typical Hawken style, his earlier speech was well done, inspiring and insightful. In typical Hawken style, his off-the-cuff answers to audience questions was where he really shone. And this answer was perhaps his shining moment of the day. Hawken said, “If you had a child molester in your neighborhood who’s offering babysitting for $7 per hour, and then a nice girl named Betty comes and says she charges $10 per hour, are you going to say, ‘sorry Betty, he only charges $7’.”
So when did coal become our benchmark? Sure, solar is kind of a hassle, so let’s just do mountain top removal instead. Yeah, great idea. Half the lakes in the U.S. are so contaminated with mercury you can’t fish them. And that’s coal. So, thanks a lot coal!
We need to convey this in a much more powerful way.
The idea of the right wing saying that a price on carbon is going to punish the middle class…it’s only through the incentive of innovation that we can get the world change we need. By keeping energy costs so low, we’re suppressing innovation. Why would anyone do weatherization unless they had an incentive to?
Programs that reduce the upfront cost of weatherization and efficiency upgrades will help defray the costs over time so that they will be offset by reduced energy usage, and these kinds of innovations can become widespread only if we all share the opportunity that cap and trade and other prices on carbon give us.
Scott Cooney is author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill)
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