We cannot afford green tech initiatives

<p>I was reading <a title="The Climate for Change" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09gore.html?_r=1&amp;scp=3&amp...">Al Gore's op-ed in the New York Times </a>about how to use green technology to save the economy.</p> <p>It sounds great:</p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;">"Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis."</span></p> <p>But there's a problem with this idea. Yes, even Silicon Valley VCs are betting that green technology will be a great business and will create new jobs.&nbsp;But can we afford the steps&nbsp;Gore recommends?</p> <p>Here are the steps he recommends:</p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;">"First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives"</span> in solar thermal plants, wind farms and geothermal.</p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;">"Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. ... The cost of this modern grid &mdash; $400 billion over 10 years &mdash; pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines."</span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;">"<span style="color: #0000ff;">Third, we should help America&rsquo;s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids"</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="color: #0000ff;">"Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. ...&nbsp; This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes."</span> </span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;">"Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home"</span></p> <p> </p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">Terrific ideas -- in normal times. They would save us money in the long run. But right now the only viable idea is the last one, because it doesn't require spending government money.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">This recession is a killer. Not only are we bailing out banks and insurance companies, the list of entities getting or asking for bailouts keeps growing. </span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;"><a title="NY Times article" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/business/12auto.html">General Motors says it won't survive another year without a bailout.</a></span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;"><a title="NY Times article" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/business/economy/12lobbying.html">The New York Times now reports</a> that American Express, banks, S&amp;Ls, the National Automobile Dealers Association,&nbsp;and even a </span><span style="color: #000000;">Hispanic business group representing plumbing and home-heating specialists are all seeking bailouts.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">Even the state of <a href="http://www.cbs8.com/stories/story.146051.html">California is asking for a federal bailout</a>, saying it could otherwise run out of money in as little as three months.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">And out of the original $700 billion, only about $60 billion is uncommitted.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">Does anyone really believe that with all this going on that the federal government -- or any government -- is going to put money into paying for green initiatives? &nbsp;It just ain't gonna happen.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">The credit crisis, coupled with the war in Iraq, is going to put the needs of our environment on hold. If this country is going to fix its economy and fund some much-needed programs, two things have to happen. We need to end the war in Iraq and raise taxes.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">President-elect Obama, of course, promised tax cuts. It's the only way to get elected. There's no way it can happen without driving us further into debt and making the economy worse.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">There's one hope for the environmental initiatives. As I mentioned, the VCs are funding companies. Many of them think they can get clean energy projects going without tax breaks or subsidies.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000ff;"><span style="color: #000000;">Let's hope they're right.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>