What if there was an affordable plan to improve America's health, wealth, and national security? Not only America's, but the world's. A dream, you say? You bet -- an attainable one. The United Nations Division of Sustainable Development developed one in 2009, nicknamed the Big Push. It's a global and American dream worth fighting for, not just despite but because of the increasing numbers of new Republicans in Congress determined to do little about energy independence or climate change, beyond quoting the bible.
The Big Push is a strategy centered on transitioning humankind to clean energy economically and quickly with three core elements, as Alan Atkisson, CEO of a major consulting firm, explained recently:
- Establish feed-in tariff mechanisms globally (that is, guaranteed-purchase price supports for renewable energy),
- Invest heavily in renewable energy especially in the developing world through those mechanisms, and
- Provide an array of technical and policy support services to speed adoption and implementation.
He notes that doing so would "accelerate the drop in price for renewables dramatically, using the enormous scales of the market for energy in developing countries, who urgently need clean, affordable energy services most," and points to a successful US precedent: the rapid drop in computer chip prices engineered by the U.S. government through its purchasing policy in the 1960s. The push of up-front investment would send the market into similar overdrive for clean energy.
How affordable is it? Atkisson says that the $1-1.5 trillion price-tag range might sound like a lot, but isn't. Spread out over a decade, it is close to what was pledged anyway at Copenhagen by all nations over the next decade, about $100 billion annually. The payoffs are huge, economic modeling shows. Everyone's economic levels rise, both rich and poor nations. Just like the Green Revolution, which retooled agricultural systems worldwide amazingly fast, think lots of new jobs -- an army of technical experts, extension workers, trainers, and jobs in other support mechanisms.
Can we do it? Actually, all of this is already starting. Atkisson counts over 50 countries that have some sort of feed-in tariffs for clean renewable energy generation. Rural communities worldwide are now leapfrogging over national power grids by using more affordable, independent solar panels for basic power needs, such as lighting and recharging cell phones vital to their businesses and banking. Deutsche Bank, with the UN, has already developed the investment scheme for the Big Push, complete with the necessary risk and insurance management. The risks of not doing it are far higher, as China outcompetes us in the burgeoning global clean energy market, and as the extreme weather of 2010 previewed for the world.
Indeed, it's not happening fast enough for nature, the biggest non-negotiable entity on Earth, as pointed out in our free online book and recently by Bill McKribben, as well. Most scientists agree that man-made global warming is causing climate change. But many are watching it unfold much faster than predicted.
It is a lack of shared vision, Atkisson concludes, that prevents the Big Push from being implemented. There is little hope of a shared vision enlightening the 2011 Congress. But we voters can build a unified vision that creates an inexorable pressure on Congress. There are millions of voters that belong to the green belt of organizations extending from the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations to 350.org, and other clean energy/climate change concern groups. If all of them had the shared vision of the Big Push, they could go a long way towards promoting it and awakening other voters to its utmost importance.
Our organizations have the ability to:
- create neighborhood activist groups committed towards transitioning their communities to clean energy;
- educate the national electorate on the enormous payoffs of switching to clean energy;
- lobby Congress to invest much more in clean energy infrastructures and market mechanisms;
- organize national protests whose main message to both government and fossil fuel industries is to invest in clean renewable energy;
- produce petitions signed by many millions of voters promising to vote in the 2012 and make this issue their main priority.
Our army is strong. Let's push.