When Morals and Markets Align, Worlds Move

WindFarm_Fluvanna_2004Life’s too short to constantly revisit decisions made long ago, and it’s easy to root for your favorite team or stick with familiar – comfortable – old enemies.

It’s been noted before that people know some things are noble and pure, others are degrading and tainted. You don’t need a steeple-topped building to figure this out- we each have a spiritual side.

Unfortunately, we don’t all agree on what that means in practice, and it’s easy to label others as misguided, evil, “them.” Even when people do agree, it can be hard to sacrifice today for a (possible) improvement tomorrow. “You should” is always a hard argument to win.

Which is why this recent nationalgeographic article is so encouraging.

Falling prices for renewable [energy] and a growing sustainability movement from the bottom up have changed the global picture…

Solar and wind are now so competitive that they are crowding out coal in many countries. In the U.S., electric generation from coal dropped by more than half in the last decade. Utility scale solar, meanwhile, rose 5,000 percent during that same period… The pace is quickening because the transition is now driven by economics.

Government support, including tax incentives, helped get the ball rolling, but the market is taking over. Government still plays a role – California, for example, is pushing for electric cars and paying to retrofit buildings to be more energy-efficient, while demonstrating that curbing greenhouse gases doesn’t bust the economy.

But from China to India to Texas, people are discovering renewable energy is economically sound. It doesn’t matter if you’re Red or Blue when the Green makes sense.

Falling prices of renewable energy have dramatically improved the global outlook. Just two years ago in Paris, the world’s top two polluters outside the U.S. insisted they’d need lots more coal. That was especially true in India.

Today, entire regions across India are seeking 100 percent renewable power. India’s new plans for meeting future energy needs now call for far fewer coal-fired plants. China, too…

[America] withdrawing from the world stage on climate could also cede new markets, industries, and leadership on everything from international trade to geopolitics to China. That could be costly.

I believe that cutting pollution and greenhouse gases, and preparing mitigations for the changes already underway, are the right things to do for posterity. How wonderful if they become the right thing to do for me today.

And for you.

Clean Energy for Conservatives – for Liberals – for Americans

I ran across an interesting article on csmonitor.com about Clear Path, a conservative organization advocating for clean energy.

“Curbing the impacts of climate change isn’t the only positive of switching to lower-carbon energy. Innovating and deploying cleaner fuels helps create jobs while reducing US dependence on foreign oil. That’s a plus for the economy and national security, not just the climate… even if climate change weren’t a risk – which we think it is – these policies would still make sense…”

It’s not just conservatives looking at clean energy with a fresh perspective. There’s a shift in thinking on the left, too.

Clean Energy’s principles offer everyone something: Smaller government, innovation, energy security, lower air pollution risk, free market choices, all based on actual cost/benefit analyses.

In the 2008 election cycle, candidates on both sides of the aisle agreed climate change posed a risk and that cleaner energy sources offered a solution. Since then, partisan rancor has overwhelmed the debate.

It’s time to get off the Blue Team and the Red Team. Save your tribalism for your favorite sports team. Real life must depend on real data and realistic policies – if only because reality has a habit of winning over human wishes. To obstruct every idea because of distrust is deeply pessimistic and ultimately self-defeating. We’ll never all agree – after all, there’s 300 million of us Americans – but I like Clean Path’s belief that we can do this together.