Near-term Stimulus vs. Long-term Green
Last week, Mackinnon gave a great overview of the Stimulus incentives for Cleantech. The impact of over $80 billion (yes, BILLION) will be an unprecedently leap in commercialization of clean technologies, putting us well on the way to reduced carbon emissions and energy independence.
However, there are many trade-offs that are inherent to “shovel-ready” economic stimulus that do not make us greener, cleaner or more energy independent. Last week, NPR discussed the Green goals of the stimulus package. In particular, the fact that $29 billion (also, BILLION) will be dedicated to building new highways is polluting in the near-term, but also “means more cars, more development, and more greenhouse gas pollution.”
While these programs do create basic jobs, we are living in 2009, not 1933. Creating jobs for the sake of job creation does not establish America as a leader in clean technologies, we need to make more sweeping changes that are aligned with an agenda for sustainable living and sustainable job growth. More money should be dedicated to research to push the needle on clean technologies, bringing them to market faster and cheaper. Less popular, but equally important, we should be aggressive about carbon and/or petrol taxes, like those proposed by Thomas Friedman years ago. These taxes would instill sustainable behavior by making non-green decisions expensive for consumers, while bolstering public funds (which will soon take a $780 billion hit).
Neither research nor taxes are particularly popular when many Americans are living hand-to-mouth, but this is the best time to make investments in our future. When good times return and gas is cheap, people are less likely to make sustainable choices.
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