The 2010 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit ended in what seems like one big FAIL. This begs the question, are carbon emissions something to worry about? YES but…With carbon doubters laughing at the Copenhagen Spectacle and the big countries clashing, it seems like the answer is NO. The answer will be no as long as we continue to not do anything about it, especially if no one will join a treaty or a mandate because the big players are not playing. Same problems as the Kyoto Protocol ten years later. There is a role the USA can play: the leader.
Leading the Way
The USA can emerge as “clean tech” leader, creating a sustainable economic boom with clean energy. Think of it like this: the Internet offers 1 trillion dollar market, energy is a 6 trillion dollar market, cha-ching! So right now if we can show the world how to do it, the USA will garner more respect and cooperation than any treaty ever has. The USA has the opportunity to get ahead of the power curve, surpassing the Middle East and show the world that clean energy is the path of the future. Even if different countries like China and the US cannot come up with a deal, it does not mean we should not do anything; we need to set the example. Remember the phrase lead, follow or get out of the way?
What is CleanTech?
Cleantech is a term used to describe products or services that improve operational performance, productivity, or efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, or pollution. Its origin is the increased consumer, regulatory and industry interest in clean forms of energy generation—specifically, perhaps, the rise in awareness of global warming, climate change and the impact on the natural environment from the burning of fossil fuels.
Clean Tech “is the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” says John Doer, who was an early investor in Netscape, Amazon, and Google.1 Many companies have recognized this and have been leading the way, the biggest of these ‘litmus test’ companies is Google. Google has created a research group to look at ways to make electricity from renewable energy as cheap as from coal, including nine engineers and 45 million in projects, such as google.org’s PowerMeter project. Another huge company is Applied Materials, the world’s biggest chip maker, is no doubt becoming a leader in manufacturing solar panels—adapting its superconductor technology to the field of solar.
Clean Tech Policy Transformation on the Global Agenda
There have been several important steps in global policy. In Rio de Janario, Brazil in 1992 the UN defined sustainability in the Bruntland Report, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol a treaty for the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations (which the USA did not sign in on–giving it no credibility) and now the policy of “Cap and Trade” or emissions trading has come out onto the table–adding carbon to the economic equation. This is a kind of value added tax, also called a revenue neutral tax, propelling more and more investment into clean tech. Due to emissions trading, coal may become a less competitive fuel than other options, giving clean tech the advantage it should have. Clean tech needs to be recognized economically for its benefit of releasing less carbon into the atmosphere, and giving it an economic advantage now can change our future later.
1.source: “The Future of Silicon Valley looks straight into the sun” by Julie Schmit, in USA Today, Tuesday, December 22, 2009.