Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Report: Earth: The Sequel

I just finished reading Earth: The Sequel. Global warming has not been at the top of my worry agenda, but energy has been for a while (and I figure if we solve energy then global warming will take care of itself). The climate change crowd has been arguing loudly for a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while the global warming deniers and other folks (primarily on the conservative side of the spectrum) worry that a cap-and-trade system would be way too much cost to the economy without any clear benefit. I've largely stayed out of that particular debate because there's so much unprovable speculation on each side. Reading this book provided concrete evidence and persuasive arguments for what I've suspected at a gut level for a long time: the argument about cap-and-trade misses the point.

In particular, there is so much opportunity for clean, affordable, renewable sources of energy and efficiency that have barely been tapped because cheap oil was so hard to compete with. But with expensive oil (it's currently down below $100/barrel, but I don't expect that to last), tapping these sources become not only feasible but downright profitable. And with a cap-and-trade system, the simple addition into the economic equation of a price for carbon provides a very tangible economic incentive to make the switch.

Cap-and-trade provides a great opportunity to lower emissions (makes the environmentalists happy), make a ton of money (makes the free-market types happy, despite their current claims to the contrary), and have a meaningful reduction in our dependence on oil, foreign or domestic (should make everyone except Exxon happy). Win-win-win opportunities like this are rare, it would be a shame to squander this.

Bush has not seen things this way, but both McCain and Obama do. I'm optimistic.

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