The folks at Google, not surprisingly, have enormous faith in the power of technology. So a group of them set out to see what technology breakthroughs in clean energy will mean to the economy, the environment and the typical American household.
They found good and bad news.
The good: Energy innovation could pay off big, benefiting GDP, jobs, energy security and reducing carbon emissions. It’ll even save homeowners money, over time.
Specifically, as Bill Weihl and Charles Baron write on the Google blog, here are the benefits of energy breakthroughs, when compared with a business as usual scenario. In their parentheses is even better news; those numbers reflect what clean energy technology can do when combined with stronger U.S. policy to promote clean energy and discourage the burning of fossil fuels:
- Grow GDP by over $155 billion/year ($244 billion in our Clean Policy scenario)
- Create over 1.1 million new full-time jobs/year (1.9 million with Clean Policy)
- Reduce household energy costs by over $942/year ($995 with Clean Policy)
- Reduce U.S. oil consumption by over 1.1 billion barrels/year
- Reduce U.S. total carbon emissions by 13% in 2030 (21% with Clean Policy)
The not-so-good news is the last bullet: Reducing U.S. carbon emission by 13% by 2030, or even 21% under the more favorable clean policy scenario, won’t do much to reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change. The report also found that by 2050, innovation in the modeled technologies alone reduced CO2 emissions by 55% and by 63% when combined with policy. Those are under best-case assumptions.
But, while there’s lots of disagreement about all this, many reputable scientists, using respected climate models, say the world needs to reduce CO2 emissions by 70 to 80% by 2050, and that the U.S. share should be close to 80%. Here’s the argument, as articulated by the Union of Concerned Scientists. [click to continue...]