Reed Hundt and Blair Levin: Grow the economy, save the climate

Today’s guest column comes from Reed Hundt and Blair Levin, authors of a new ebook called The Politics of Abundance:  How Technology Can Fix the Budget, Revive the American Dream, and Establish Obama’s Legacy, available at www.politicsofabundance.com and via Amazon and iTunes. Reed Hundt was chair of the Federal Communications Commission and Blair Levin was his chief of staff from 1993 through 1997, when the government’s telecom policies helped spur the Internet boom; they see similar opportunities now in broadband and energy. Hundt is now the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, a non-profit that designs financing support for energy projects. Blair (who is a friend) is CEO of Gig U, a non-profit engaged in broadband projects. They’ve got some good and (relatively) simple ideas for spurring the green economy.

Based on existing trends in global warming and life expectancy, every American at or under age 65 is likely to live long enough to see the world devastated by floods, droughts, storms, starvation, extinction of species, and other iterations of the apocalypse.

Despite occasional eruptions of denial in some quarters, most business and government leaders in the United States and virtually all in other nations agree that greenhouse gases, spewing from smokestacks and exhaust pipes, are warming the planet to the point where these apocalyptic outcomes are probable.

The great news is that in the first term of the Obama Administration federal and state governments showed clearly how any country can halt these murderous emissions, and at the same time stimulate sustainable economic growth.

By insisting that ARRA, the recovery spending act passed in February 2009, provide tax credits used for building a new energy system, President Obama helped the wind and solar electricity generation industry double their share of the market in less than four years.

Then the Administration re-organized and increased research and funding of sustainable energy technologies. As a result, innovators are delivering Moore’s Law (price-performance doubling every couple of years) results in batteries, grid efficiency, and other areas.

California has put into place laws that cap emissions, require rapid market share shift to renewables, and encourage investment in distributed rooftop solar. So far the economic impact is good and popular opinion supportive.

Connecticut created a state green bank that can provide low-cost capital for renewables and efficiency investment. As a result, clean electricity can be provided to consumers at below the current and projected prices for non-sustainable electricity generation, and the money contributed by the state green ban to jumpstart private projects will be paid back over time.

Most states have passed laws requiring a shift of major market share to renewable generation sources. These renewable standards permit utilities to phase out dangerous emissions-intense generation rapidly, while bringing new investment into local economies.

Reed Hundt

Technological breakthroughs have led to the discovery of vast resources of natural gas deep inside American soil. The electricity generation industry can switch from using coal to natural gas and deliver electricity cheaper, with much reduced emissions. Within the second term of the Obama Administration natural gas generation can increase its already large share of the market by fifty percent – without any new government funding. [click to continue...]