(# 245) — Last week’s column summarized some of the radical economic opportunities that are now available in the energy revolution that is underway. This column continues that chronicle of enormous benefits. Policy and project recommendations for local implementation begin next week.
The enormous economic potential of the energy revolution can be summarized as follows: an economy 1.5 larger than the current economy that costs $5 trillion less than business-as-usual, without counting the trillions of very real but hidden costs of carbon-based energy. The hidden costs are actually savings (health and environmental costs that do not happen, etc.) which leverage up to 20 times the value of increased revenue, e.g. saving one billion dollars often requires increased revenue of 22 billion dollars and, of course, we live better lives.
Such dramatic opportunities require no federal taxes, subsidies, mandates, or laws, or new inventions. What’s the catch?
The catch is in the air right now. We simply commit to understanding and adopting the non-carbon, clean, energy efficient and renewable energy economy that is required by nature’s laws. The commitment needs to be made now. If we take economic advantage of available opportunities to move to an energy policy of no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, and reduction in natural gas use, we can achieve a vibrant, secure, healthy society by 2050 and compete globally.
It will take a lot of effort to understand what is necessary and to educate every one. Most people think that turning off their lights is more efficient than increasing insulation in their building. LED lighting is terrific compared to most current lighting and people acting responsibly by turning lights off is essential. Adding insulation still gives a higher efficiency savings.
Schools need to have curricula in energy efficiency. Take power generation. For every 100 units of energy used as fuel to make energy, less than 10% is available for the purpose it was purchased for. Added to this huge inefficiency is the negative financial and health costs associated with the input energy which is predominantly carbon-based. Let the young students learn their fractions and vocabulary, their understanding of mechanics and economics from real-life exercises. A tour of the school’s mechanics will turn up on-site examples in almost every case, of inefficient, even if newly installed, energy and water systems. Local alternative input fuels are available and retrofit of HVAC systems – especially valves, motors and piping – can be done by local contractors.
Sullivan County has an Economic Development Corporation with representatives from the major economic sectors of the local economy. Energy is not represented, perhaps in part because current membership is based on existing economic agencies. The local energy sector is larger than some of the other sectors represented and is one of the most dynamic areas for sustainable economic development. The new Legislature should add representation of the local energy sector to the EDC to its list of changes to be made in the near future.