We’re All In This Together – We Need To Act Together

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Image courtesy NREL

Some of us have long recognized that when it comes to the climate, we are all stuck on the same world, and we need to act together if we are to keep it in livable shape. Unfortunately, those of us who understand this tend to regard some of those who do not as the Enemy. (And unfortunately, I admit being one such.)

On the other side of this are some people who genuinely believe that socialism implies a slave state and that climate change is the product of fertile minds of those dedicated to achieving socialism worldwide.

Here is the catch: We need to act together — everyone needs to be working on the same side — if we are to work quickly enough.

An article that appeared on June 23 at OilPrice.com, “Three Companies That Are Bigger Than The Entire Oil & Gas Industry,” said that three companies, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, each had market value greater than the entire US oil & gas sector (meaning the sector’s companies in the S&P 1500), and that got my mind working.

So here is my idea. While we are trying to find the recipients for the trillions of dollars aimed at reviving an economy bashed by Covid-19, and trying especially hard to make sure that none of it goes to the undeserving, we might consider a way to use that money to go way beyond stimulating the economy to saving the world. How? Try this, for starters:

Let’s throw $1 trillion at the US fossil fuels industry!
(But let’s do it with a couple strings, of course.)

There are two strings I would include in this. First, to get the money, the industry has to work to close down all fossil fuels extraction by the end of 2030, with exceptions limited to practically nothing. And second, that the money has to be used to invest in green technology in ways that do not compete with already existing businesses.

The fossil fuels businesses would receive an amount of money that is a large part of their market value. Such a “gift” would keep these companies alive while they switching to other business models, and it would allow them to make money.

You could easily ask, and probably should ask, how these companies could invest in green technology without competing with existing businesses. Actually, I don’t think this would be too hard. They could invest in places where the market is asking for for money and not getting it.

Green bonds are a good example. There are not nearly enough of them to cover development at the rate at which we need to act.

Plans that are not really in the works might be another. For example, we could develop transmission lines that are buried alongside limited-access highways. The long transmission lines that are so easily blocked now might find this actually makes things easier for them, as it could provide alternate routes for difficult areas to build them at reasonable costs.

Offshore wind power could use boosts. New developers would not crowd the market if the state and federal governments opened up bidding faster.

New technology investments might be just the sort of thing for some people who like taking chances. Right now, they are losing their money on fracking. Why not encourage them to place their bets on something more likely to pay off? They just have to make it green.

A second part of my idea is this:

Let’s throw $1 trillion at the businesses that use the fossil fuels!
(But let’s do that with a couple strings, also.)

And here the strings are the same, except that they relate to use of fossil fuels, instead of extracting them.

So you might ask, how would GM invest money without competing with Tesla? GM could continue to push on its EV investments without using the money it might get. But there are investments GM could make that would not compete with Tesla itself and yet bring it income. One example would be to develop EV conversions for existing GM cars. CleanTechnica had an article last year on this type of conversion, titled, “Every Automaker Should Develop Conversion Kits For Their Gas Vehicles.”

Another thing that might be developed as a product that does not currently have competition (or enough of it) would be the manufacture of kits to provide electricity for those who currently have none. For example, a kit costing only $1000 could supply one or more PV panels, a battery, charger, inverter, LED lights, cell phone charger, and other equipment for a family that is without power.

If the US produced 250 million of these, at a cost of “just” $250 billion, American businesses could provide electricity to just about every family without it worldwide. If the US government paid for this (separately from its “gift” to US companies), the businesses making these could hire a lot of people, do a lot of good, and put a lot of equipment with American flags on it into a lot of homes.

While such an act would benefit a lot of people in Africa and Asia, it would also benefit Americans down the line. There are practically no people worldwide who do not have electricity but who buy appreciable amounts of new American products. Give them the gift of electricity, and they are likely to be customers for products.

The immediate need for throwing money around to deal with our Covid-19 problems, which seems to be acknowledged by conservatives and liberals alike, would be met by these actions. So they fit into the immediate stimulus.

But as much to the point, people who are dedicated to maintaining the status quo with fossil fuels, people who are blocking progress on climate change because they believe that progress could destroy them economically would have an incentive to see the issue as one that is economically neutral, at worst. And possibly, it could be a good solution to their worries about their incomes.

I think the bottom line is, if we are to achieve a Green Economy with a Green New Deal, we are much more likely to do that by creating a structure within which people with money can see ways to hold on to it while the world goes into a fossil-free Green New Market, where currently threatened investment can go and contribute to the solution while it has its needs met. (I feel like inserting a few words parenthetically here, but I will not spoil the intent of this article by namecalling.)

Anything left over from all of this could go to individuals whose jobs are threatened despite the stimulus and people who have no jobs.

(Okay, I will save some readers from having to write a very predictable comment: “George, you have a mind like a biodigester – give it something to work on, and out comes a lot of gas and compost.” You don’t need to tell me – I already know.)

Image: Wind turbines (Image: Dennis Shroeder, NREL)

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George Harvey

A retired computer engineer, George Harvey researches and writes on energy and climate change, maintains a daily blog (geoharvey.com), and has a weekly hour-long TV show, Energy Week with George Harvey and Tom Finnell. In addition to those found at CleanTechnica, many of his articles can be found at greenenergytimes.org.

George Harvey has 78 posts and counting. See all posts by George Harvey