Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)
Tue Jan 17, 2012, 06:38 AM
Demeter (71,136 posts)
21. The Essentials for the Necessary Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy
Unless we want to be indentured to an energy-military-financial complex, we need to build a new infrastructure for renewable energy. Fossil fuels are going to disappear, whether we like it or not. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are becoming scarcer, harder to extract and a greater danger to the global climate. If we proceed with business-as-usual, energy companies will take advantage of increasing scarcity to dominate the world economy by vacuuming up more money from the 99%. They will be able to ally with military and financial institutions to construct an energy-military-financial complex that could eventually reduce most of the rest of us to a form of debt peonage. On the other hand, if we could possibly elect a government that does what governments do best – build infrastructure – we can avoid a world of global warming and economic collapse by building enough wind farms, solar panels, and geothermal systems to power our economy and ignite a sustainable, broad-based period of economic growth. Of course, this will require a sea-change in the direction of the political system, along the lines of the Occupy movement, but there is too much at stake to throw up our hands in despair....The unfolding energy drama presents progressives with several dilemmas. Some are suspicious that oil scarcity can be used as a ruse by the oil companies and speculators to spike prices. Roger Altman recently argued that a larger supply of fossil fuels will lead to less international tension. More generally, progressives sometimes fear that advocating for less oil use will be seen by the public as an attack on the American Dream of a car in every garage and a single family home for every family. But in addition to problems of scarcity and extraction, fossil fuels are bringing us towards extremely dangerous climate change. We need to have some answers or else the Right will simply keep up with the chant of “Drill baby drill.” It's time to counter with, “Build, build, build!"
Dirty fuels Create an Unsustainable economy
The question of the future of the supply of fossil fuels is not an easy one to answer. Oil producing nations, for instance, are not at all transparent about their supplies. Technologies constantly change, and so do environmental hazards. However, if we look at the current state of fossil fuel industries, it should be clear that we are in trouble.
For progressives, the fossil fuel crisis provides a great opportunity for equitable, sustainable economic growth. Since energy impacts all sections of society, all parts of the economy must become more just in order to solve the problem. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of petroleum. While it would be much easier if Sammy and Susie Suburban could wake up in the future and drive their electric cars in just the same way they drive their oil-powered ones, this scenario seems very unlikely. The best way to reduce and eliminate the use of petroleum is to increase the density of town, suburban, and city centers, so that people can choose to walk, bike, or take electric trains such as subways and light rail, and so that slow, low-range actually-existing electric vehicles can cover the shorter distances needed. To make dense city centers attractive, however, a good educational system is required. As the current candidate for Senate in Massachussets, Elizabeth Warren, has argued, much of the expansion of the suburbs and the increased expenditure of family income has occurred in order to live in a good school district. Thus, because of the interconnected nature of the modern economy, it might turn out that the single most important way to solve the energy crisis is to improve urban schools!
The technology now exists to supply all the electricity we need by constructing wind farms, solar panels, and energy-efficient buildings. If progressives want to argue for the positive benefits of government, then they can advocate for a multi-trillion dollar program of government-led new energy infrastructure, which would employ tens of millions of people and rebuild the key to our economic prosperity, our manufacturing base. It is exactly because the energy, military, and financial elites will benefit from fossil fuel scarcity that progressives need to tackle the problem head on. In rebuilding the infrastructure, the economic fortunes of the 99 percent can be revived as well.
Jon Rynn is the author of the book Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The power to rebuild the American middle class, available from Praeger Press. He holds a Ph.D. in political science and is a Visiting Scholar at the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems. In the spring he will be participating in a global teach-in (globalteachin.com), incorporating these and other issues.
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The Essentials for the Necessary Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy
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