Global warming—A new business opportunity

Scientists contend global warming is serious threat to planetary well-being

Some scientists reject global warming’s actuality and characterize treaties like the Kyoto Protocol as an effort to ration energy use. Other scientists believe the risk to human and planetary well-being is serious enough to warrant a change in our energy behavior.

At a recent international meeting, a delegate from Germany told us that Americans seem to think global warming does not affect them but acknowledge it is occurring in other parts of the world. An American did not believe our citizens feel that way, but our economic and political leaders seem to operate on that premise. The recent presidential debates never addressed the issue of global climate change and the economic challenges and opportunities it presents.

With Russia about to sign the Kyoto Protocol, global economic competition regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy will intensify. Since thousands of American firms have operations in many of the countries that have signed the Protocol, they will have to adjust to greenhouse gases emission limits whether they believe in global warming or not.

For example, new Wal- Mart type stores destined for other lands could be far greener and more efficient than the energy hogs in the United States. A new store in Germany would probably be required to be energy efficient, have solar panels integrated into the building design and have a green roof. We, too, should have energy-efficient, clean green buildings serving our communities.

Signing the Kyoto Protocol only initiates the process. New talks in 2008 will set greater limits on the release of greenhouse gases and extend them to 2020. Scientists estimate that we must cut the release of these gases 60 percent by 2060 to avoid the worst impacts of global climate change.

Rather than deny the problem, Germany has redesigned its energy policies to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the use of efficiency and renewable energy. Germans see climate change as an economic opportunity. By taking appropriate actions, they are creating jobs and stimulating their national economy.

The results are impressive. Approximately 100,000 people, equal to the number employed by Volkswagen in Germany, work in their renewable energy industry. By the end of March 2003, Germany had a total wind power capacity of 12,400 MW, roughly equivalent to the output of six Byron-type installations. Illinois’ first wind farm near Paw Paw has a capacity of 50.4 MW, less than 1/246 of German wind production.

Germany’s solar power installations have a total capacity of 200 MW; Illinois has 1 MW. Their new incentive program offering homeowners nearly $0.70 per kilowatt for PV produced electricity will substantially increase the number of installations.

Germany is also creating usable energy from biomass. By 2002, they already had 1,600 biogas plants in operation.

Their commitment to renewable energy puts Germany in a favorable position for global sales. For example, they are about to field test a new 5 MW wind generator for placement on a nearly 400-foot tower. In contrast, the wind generators at Paw Paw are only .8 MW. Ten German generators would supply the same output as the 63 generators now scattered across Lee County’s landscape.

By accepting the reality of global warming and making the necessary adjustments in energy policy, Germany has provided its citizens with clean energy sources while generating jobs and stimulating their economy. For them, global warming is a profit center.

It could be for us, too.

Reference: Approaches Challenges Potentials, Heinrich Boll Foundation

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