Tag Archives: recession

The Energy Revolution: Could America get left behind?

Wind Turbines

With our stock market faltering, our investment firms sinking, involvement in frustratingly unproductive conflicts, and our entire southern region battered by hurricanes, America seems to have a lot more to worry about than our environment.  What many don’t realize is that all of these issues can be tied to America’s insistence  that energy sustainability has little more purpose than appeasing tree huggers.  Investing in clean, cheap, renewable electric energy is imperative in situating America on the top of the impending energy revolution. America will continue its downward spiral if we continue to adhere to our wasteful, dirty, traditional methods of energy production.

I happened to be watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on September 23rd, 2008 when he had President Bill Clinton on the show.  Clinton explained the importance of renewable energy so precisely I had to find his exact words again:

Bill Clinton- If you remember, in my second term, we had lots of jobs in part because all these high tech industries were booming.  So like every boom, it led to a downturn.  When the downturn occurred, the federal reserve left a lot of money in America, but the only thing that was then making money was housing…. In 2001, all this money was out there; and it all went into houses and construction.  So we had to keep finding funny ways to have more houses, like, the sub prime mortgages or the derivatives. What if we had put a lot of this money into solar, and wind energy, and hybrid electric vehicles, and all these things that are making all of our cities as energy efficient as possible?  We would have created millions of jobs, raised incomes, had the revenues to provide healthcare to everybody, and there would have been competition for investment.”

[Cheers and applause from the crowd]

Jon Stewart- If we had the presidential election today, what do you think you’d win by? 20? …. You would pretty much crush them.

There are three ways of succeeding in the business world: you have to be the first, the best, or the cheapest.  America has the opportunity to succeed in energy sustainability the same way it has in many other industries.  Some pundits say the any efforts by the US to slow global warming won’t matter because China and other developing countries are creating more pollution than ever.  Well advancing clean energy is more than being green, it is about setting ourselves up in a leading role in developing technology that allows us to live cheaper and more efficiently, that will someday be utilized by everyone.

Masdar City:

Masdar City
Take, for example, the United Arab Emirates and the Masdar initiative.  In this initiative, the UAE has begun building cities that rely entirely on clean transit and renewable means of energy production.  More can be read about it here.  Now, why would a world leader in hydrocarbon production be investing in renewable energy that, if widely used, would hurt their chief export?  Well, for one, they know that their chief export is finite and will run out some time in the future.  Instead of spending their cash flow on more consumable fossil fuels, they are investing in cheap, renewable energy that will power their cities when the oil, and most of their income runs dry.

This trend of Middle Eastern countries, rich off of our addiction to oil, and making wise investments is not mitigating our current financial crisis.  The weak dollar has led to an influx of foreign investors buying up our assets.  Middle eastern firms are buying our most prestigious US landmarks, such as the Chrysler Building in NYC.

“We are buying in the U.S. … Somebody’s problem is somebody’s profit. Something you want to buy, you can buy cheaper now,” Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem (Reuters)

New York City:

BumGovernment and corporate greed supported America’s addiction to oil and derailed the alternatives long enough to run our economy into the ground, all this while endowing Middle Eastern countries with the resources necessary to buy our biggest assets and make it a world leader in clean, renewable energy.  Last week, we just passed a spending bill to open up offshore drilling and bail out faltering US auto companies, GM and Ford, whom have, so far, shown absolutely no understanding of hybrid electric vehicles, what consumers want.  The most prominent renewable energy manufacturers are coming from Europe. A Danish company, Vestas is the world leader in designing and manufacturing wind turbines.  A Scottish company, Pelamis, is developing the world’s wave energy converters. If we do not restructure how we develop energy, we will be stuck in the 20th century with our “clean” coal and offshore drilling that will give us more oil 30 years down the road, by then it should be a worthless commodity; while the rest of the world develops into clean, efficient, renewable, and cheap energy producers. Our current economy, and our persistence in traditional means of energy production could cause America to be left behind, never crawling out of the hole we have dug.

The Electric Car can Save America (or help a bit)


I’m always a bit peeved hearing people say the environmental movement is going to damage the economy and anything that weens ourselves off of oil is going to hurt our strongest American corporations. Logical argument, but a weak one. First of all, our oil companies are posting record profits while American citizens are amidst a real depression. The money that is going to oil corporations is what used to be spent on goods and services. This lack of consumption coupled with rising costs of goods due to high transportation costs slows the economy and causes recessions. Since there are no alternatives, demand is inelastic, meaning people will pay just about anything to be able to fill up their vehicles. Our fossil fuel addiction has given oil companies and the middle eastern cartels the ability to treat us like fiends.

But when big oil starts spreading the myth that they are somehow god’s gift to the American economy, it gets irritating. For example, John Hoffmeister, former president of Shell oil was on Glenn Beck the other day saying an economic disaster would ensue if we were to “get off oil”. Because, you know, oil is also used to make “artificial Christmas trees, plastic bottles, kitchen utensils.” He also warns, “Say goodbye to all kinds of things that people use and take for granted.” Hey, Hoffmeister, nobody asked you to stop supplying manufacturing companies with oil, we just meant that America deserves a choice to not pay $10 a gallon in the near future. So stop holding other American goods hostage that happen to involve oil and take that condescending smirk on your face.

But hope is on the horizon. If you have driven across the Midwest United States you probably passed a modern wind farm. Not only are they beautiful, magnificent structures, but one turbine alone is capable of powering 4000 homes. Wind turbines are being built and installed in America at a breakneck pace, and generating quite a buzz worldwide. Along with this technology, other clean, alternative electricity sources are developing and replacing our conventional, antiquated methods. The energy revolution will create plenty of jobs for Americans, provide cheap renewable energy, and enhance the grid to charge electric cars, which, actually wont require as much energy as you think.

Several alternative fuels have been developed, including ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen. However, all of these are simply new energy sources to be wasted in the inefficient combustion engines of our cars. Ethanol and hydrogen are endorsed by oil companies because they are fuels that they can sell, we can burn, and then create another vicious game of supply and demand that the consumer will inevitably lose. The potential of hydrogen seems to be all the rage now, but there are key issues that prevent it from every being a viable alternative. For instance, a hydrogen car is, on average right now, $1,000,000, so we have a way to go before the general population can afford them. They will not have nearly the range of a gasoline car, and if you think gas is expensive now, wait til you see how much hydrogen will be, if there is ever a hydrogen infrastructure. Biofuel and ethanol all need an established infrastructure as well.
Bush Hydrogen

Electric cars, on the other hand, can be charged like your cell phone, and can free us from being slaves to the oil industry. This will inevitably help the middle class, which is spending all its spare cash at the pump. This is money that could go towards goods and services, savings, retirement funds, and our children’s educations. The electric car will also bring several variations of jobs to America. Since big auto has not yet gotten in on the action, startups are popping up across the nation with an entrepreneurial spirit similar to the great American oil rush that got us in this situation. Lithium-Ion battery companies like Enerdel are providing more manufacturing jobs to America. EnerDel is expanding its Indianapolis plant to provide batteries to Th!nk, which is planning to produce 10,000 electric cars in 2009. Tesla Motors now plans to assemble its 2010 Model S (formerly the Tesla Whitestar), in Northern California (because Ahnold said so), creating hundreds of well paying jobs. Several more startups based in the states will either build their own electric cars or retrofit existing vehicles in hopes of attaining a spot in the rapidly crowding, clean transportation movement.

What is important to know is that people and businesses always adapt. Technological innovation will always be beneficial to mankind, and with our entrepreneurial spirit, new powerful companies will rise. Unfortunately, established corporations become obsolete if they do not react and adapt to change. Big oil’s reaction is suppression, petition, promises of clean alternatives 15 years from now every 15 years, and now they’re going on talk shows telling us we cannot survive without them. They need a better strategy, or else we will run out of oil, and then we won’t have artificial Christmas trees.