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TLC

August 25th, 2010 · No Comments

TLC …

Tender, loving, care.

What beautiful words.

We can all use some TLC.

And, looking at peat fires smoking out Moskovites, flooded Pakistanis, overheated Washingtonians, and other climate chaos victims around the world, it has to be clear to all but the anti-science syndrome sufferring haters of a livable economic system that our planet needs some TLC as well.

That TLC is, of course, some Transparency, Long-term, and Certain when it comes to energy and climate policies …

Far too many $s are sitting on the sides in the underemployed U.S. Economy with far too many of our “best and brightest” heading into law, real estate, finance, advertising, and other lucrative arenas of ’service economy’ ….. And far, far, far too many Americans unemployed and underemployed with bleak prospects looking toward the future.

One of the reasons that, when it comes to clean energy and energy efficiency, the money is sitting on the side? Uncertainty about tomorrow’s policies.

As Deutsche Bank put it last year in a report entitled: Global Climate Change Policy Tracker: An Investor’s Assessment

Governments must create transparent, long-term, and certain policies to attract capital. While the carbon markets may offer long term solutions, at present investors are driven by on-the-ground mandates and incentives.

Let us put a simple fact on the table: catastrophic climate change is simple a reality.

We already are seeing massive implications of humanity’s thumb on the scales when it comes to climate (and weather) and the situation will worsen. We have, hopefully, some degree of control over just how much climate chaos will worsen.

And, in terms of that “some degree of control”, that control exists at multiple levels: individual, family, group, business, government, societal action. We simply will not succeed without action occurring at all of these levels … but we won’t “solve” (mitigate) climate change with individual action alone. Changing your light bulbs is the right thing to do, but we won’t stop climate chaos simply by screwing in CFLs.

A core gap — especially, but not solely, in the United States — is the absence of certain and (appropriately) stable governmental policies to help foster and drive action across society to turn us away from our fossil foolish habits to something sustainable.

We are seeing (at least hints of) some of the critical foundation stones being set, often behind the scenes. For example, standards are incredibly important to improving energy efficiency (invisible energy). Refrigerators have fallen from 2000 kilowatt hours/year 40 years ago to an average of about 500 kwh/year, even as they’ve become higher quality. This is something the individual consumer had, in essence, nearly zero ability to drive. While you or I might want a more efficient product, if it isn’t being made (or made available), our ‘wants’ have little real meaning. Improved refrigerators are due to government standard setting driving industry in a sustained and well-enunciated manner. Happily, (Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is focused on setting standards re energy efficiency. Even while (highly) commendable, this is only a shadow of what we require.

The sort of long-term, dedicated, and predicate policy for America’s energy policy has been basically focused on the subsidy and expansion of a fossil foolish addiction to oil, natural gas, and coal. Whether speaking of providing tax benefits for the production of oil overseas or reduced tax levels on oil / natural gas production or …, the U.S. government’s energy (and transportation and housing and …) policy has been dominated by fossil foolish interests for far too long.

When it comes to support for renewable power Historic Impact of PTC Expiration on Annual Installation of Wind Capacityand energy efficiency, U.S. policy has been far from transparent, long-term, nor certain. Wind power installations provide one of the clearest examples: rapid growth with production tax credit, with a valley of death when the credits weren’t in place. While a “subsidy” for clean energy, per kilowatt-hour, these costs are far (far) lower than the costs we all bear due to hidden subsidies for coal (such as increased asthma, mercury in the food stream, etc …) and, surprisingly to many, should foster lower overall electricity costs (by cutting down the number of hours of peak electricity charges per year). The PTC truly is the poster children for the absence of TLC for an American clean energy revolution.

The Obama Administration has been a breath of fresh air, especially compared to the malaise of the Cheney-Bush regime’s alignment with fossil-foolish interests. A breath — however — rather than a storm to clear the air.

The stimulus package had a lot of money toward clean energy and energy efficiency but, like the entire stimulus package, far less than our situation demanded or the opportunities the economy (and American society) provided. We still hear (far) too much about the mirage of clean coal (which is just a little more (perhaps) realistic as talking about unicorns pulling our cars). The Administration — especially the President — was not a driving force battling to get through clean energy and climate legislation through the Congress.

With the failure of the Senate to move climate legislation, the USA lacks TLC energy policy that will foster our moving toward a clean energy revolution.

While the PRC is investing $100s of billions into clean energy, setting strong standards, and shutting down polluting plants, the U.S. Senate has failed to act.

While Europe continues to put up wind turbines, construct tramways, and seek to develop new technologies, the U.S. Senate has failed to act.

While … Russia burns, Pakistan floods, San Francisco heats up, the Arctic melts (and bubbles), the U.S. Senate has failed to act.

The United States is mired in 10% unemployment range, with struggling households and communities around the nation.

The United States continues to hemorrhage $billions, every day, for imported oil

The United States … needs some TLC care … TLC care that some sensible TLC energy policy could provide.

Transparency as to the real (full) costs of energy options (from mercury poisoning, to CO2 acidifying oceans and heating the planet, to cancer caused by gasoline emissions, to …) and putting those costs into the system rather than “externalities” to be born by our children’s lungs, our damaged future options, and our weakened economy. The Transparency, however, extends into clarity in the tax code and moving from obscure tax subsidies (which aren’t really spending, are they) to explicit policies that lay out how the government will work to enable energy developments that contributes to our basic tenet to struggle to ‘form a more perfect union’ — in this case, to contribute to greater prosperity for current and future generations through moving toward a more resilient and sustainable energy system.

Long-term is truly key. Our fossil-foolish ways and addictions didn’t come overnight and they won’t go away, short of disaster, overnight either. We need policies that work, over the long term, that will drive individual, family, business, community, and government investment toward ever cleaner energy choices (efficiency, conservation, and clean energy). We can’t have a few years of significant fiscal infusion, like the stimulus package provided, and then total uncertainty about what follows next and then wonder why businesses don’t invest to chase that uncertain market. We can’t leave open the question about whether dumping poison into the air can continue to be done without cost and wonder why utilities keep coal plants operating (and work to build more). We can’t expect real change if we don’t make it clear that government policy is there for the long-term.

And … certain … uncertainty creates risk and, well, risk increases costs throughout the system and inhibits movement toward the change we desire and require.

….

Very simple. Our overall society needs some TLC care. Smart TLC energy policy can — and should — be at the center of that TLC care.

Tags: Energy

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