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Bolstering Renewables with Patriotism

Feb 23, 2011

Yesterday I asked whether there is a way to trump the arguments of natural gas, on behalf of renewable energy.

The responses were interesting. Some believe we can't. Others that we must. Some pointed out that natural gas prices are volatile, others noted the volatility of energy from wind.

My article focused on the issue of fracturing, exploding small bombs deep in the Earth's crust to stimulate delivery of gas. I acknowledged that while the concerns are real the argument is not winning the day.

Today I want to propose that we have two trump cards to play right now at a time when lawmakers are re-evaluating incentives for many renewable energy programs: Libya and China.

The price explosion that followed recent unrest in Libya can happen at any time, and in many places. Each time it happens, economies that depend on fossil fuels are hit hard. The stock market tanks. We wind up rooting against democracy for fear that our own jobs could disappear if it triumphed. It's a sin we're constantly reminded of on the world stage, a reality our high ideals can't absolve us of.

Fact is that when you tie your economy to a common commodity that is imported you lose your autonomy. America's national security is in the hands of others. Our best and bravest are sent to fight and die to maintain supply lines, even when alternative technologies exist that can cut those ties and reduce that dependence.

China's next five-year plan  (yes, they still have them) focuses on higher wages and domestic demand. But its key buzzword on the supply side is renewable energy.

In an effort to keep growing while expanding renewable energy to 20% of domestic demand by 2020, our rival plans on doing the very same things America's renewable industry wants us to do, starting with a tax on pollution. A carbon trading system is also expected to be part of the plan, due for ratification next month, with environmental and energy efficiency declared “priority industries” for the first time.

Fact is we're in a race with China. The nation that weans itself from imported fossil fuels first will have an enormous economic advantage. China is no longer willing to be just the “low cost supplier” – its workers are getting raises – but it does plan on using wind and solar energy, along with hydropower and even nuclear energy, to enhance its national security.

The question we have to ask is, can we afford to do less? China thinks renewable energy can help its grandchildren earn more than your grandchildren. Are we up to the challenge? Or are we going to let troubles in places like Libya drive our future?

Those are the stakes. I think most Americans understand this, and it's why renewable energy remains popular. Even in states dominated by conservative Republicans, efforts to overturn renewable energy targets are falling short.

I think we have the wind at our backs. Let's not be afraid to use patriotism to close the deal.

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publicat...


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