Debating a decarbonized economy

December 29, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, India and China became more open to economic involvements with the United States. Corporations gained access to large numbers of low-cost laborers and began outsourcing American jobs to these and other countries. Both manufacturing and professional jobs in the United States were lost, reducing employment and income to workers and taxes to units of government.

Later deregulation of the financial sector led to a global economic meltdown followed by a taxpayer bailout of the banks involved. The dramatic increases in military spending, combined with tax cuts, added to our national debt. The explosion of debt is being used to justify cutting social programs including Social Security and Medicare.

As workers lose their jobs and income, communities and states strapped for cash are laying off workers, reducing pensions, cutting services and raising fees.

Adding to global economic stress is the International Energy Agency’s acknowledgment of peaking of conventional oil. The agency indicates the world is on an unsustainable energy path. They see decarbonizing energy as essential to curb rising energy prices and prevent serious global environmental damage.

The downward spiral now in motion will be difficult to stop unless federal government policies focus on rebuilding the American economy. Energy is a crucial element in rebuilding the economy and is sure to set off some heated political debates.

Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, commented on the unprecedented number of climate contrarians swept into office with the November elections. He wonders how we arrived at the point where attacking scientists and their work is acceptable and helps win elections. He points out that successful candidates were backed by oil, coal and electric utility interests.

He quotes Todd Young, a new congressman from Indiana, as stating that ”…a good portion of the science used to justify ‘climate change’ was a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues with an agenda.”

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial in the “Review & Outlook” column expressed dismay that eight leading utility CEOs have defended the EPA’s regulatory efforts to close down old polluting coal power plants as yielding important economic benefits to our economy.

John Rowe, chairman and chief executive of Exelon based in Chicago, is one of the executives defending EPA actions. The editorial points to the economic connections of Exelon to the Obama administration and Rahm Emanuel along with the increased profits that come to their nuclear plants.

The Obama administration is set to roll out a major greenhouse gas policy for power plants, refineries and other industrial plants that would limit their emissions. The EPA is to start implementing the standards Jan. 2, 2011. House Republicans are vowing to block EPA’s and other regulations they characterize as “job-killing.”

An article by Mark Hertsgaard and Christian Parenti points out that President Obama could initiate a green energy revolution by requiring the Pentagon, Postal Service and other federal agencies to shift their energy purchases to clean sources. Two military reports, More Fight Less Oil and the Quadrennial Defense Review, call for reducing their oil dependence and emphasized the strategic importance of alternatives to hydrocarbons. Will our leaders select the right course of action?

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Dec. 29-Jan. 4, 2011 issue

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