Archive for November, 2008

Why “The Economist” Is Wrong on Green Subsidies

Penned by Nick

The Economist ran a characteristically even-handed, slightly missing the point story on the virtues of transitioning towards a green economy (full story here).

Their point seems fair enough — subsidies, when misdirected, do more harm than good. The article goes on to lay out examples of how biofuels and solar subsidies have perverted the market, making irrational allocations to technologies that hold no real immediate merit.

From my perspective, this is very shortsighted argument, given that the US subsidizes the majority of its energy industries, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. A full market float on investment is a worthwhile goal, but it’s not appropriate in the early adoption stages–new technologies need government help to work through the initial machinations and consumer inhibitions that limit long-term uptake. What’s dangerous is when entire industries, such as oil, become dependent on tax breaks and subsidies to drive their profitability. When that happens, entrenched interests truly do distort the market dynamics.

In lieu of lambasting subsidies, the authors should embrace a phased approach that balances our interest in creating green jobs while redressing climate change. One step at a time is the only way forward. In most all cases, those first steps begin with a helping hand as we get our feet under ourselves, and first look to the horizon of a brighter, greener future.

November 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm 2 comments

Closer to home

Tom’s returning perspective:

It’s been a while since my last posting, with Nick leading the way with enlightened thinking over the past few weeks. Like every good deserter, I have a good excuse; I’ve spent much of these last few weeks in Madagascar, visiting Blue Ventures, an organisation I helped found a number of years ago.

After the tumult in the markets accelerating prior to my departure, it was refreshing to spend time in a place where bankers, traders, analysts and auditors are unheard of. I’ll try to avoid the usual clichés, but I hope you’ll excuse my appreciation of how little the financial crisis means to the majority of the world’s population. In the village of Andavadoaka, a subsistence economy, they are still far more concerned about the daily fishing catch in order to feed their families, than the world markets and the subsequent ramifications. In fact, it’s hard to see how the financial crisis might reach the village; two days walk from the nearest town (and therefore bank or market). The people of Andavaodoaka are pretty self-sufficient.

But they are only too aware of the environmental crisis – because it affects their livelihoods, alongside billions of others who rely on the land and the sea for their sustenance. These people have witnessed a massive degradation in the marine ecosystem over the course of their lifetimes as a result of coral bleaching – directly caused by climate change. Although they don’t understand the science behind the changes, they want to know how they can protect their inherited ecosystem. They want to know why large patches of the reef system become completely devoid of life and often die off each summer. They want to know whether we can help them stop this happening, as it worries them, it creates tension, unrest and could, if left unchecked, result in forced migration from an area where they’ve lived quietly and symbiotically for generations.

For fear of repeating a previous post, let’s focus on the real, lasting issue effecting the world over – the environmental crisis. Here at Bright Green, we’ve offered to put a Malagasy child through a years education for each placement we make, to ensure a Brighter Greener future. We urge you not to lose focus on the environment in these uncertain times.

November 28, 2008 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

“New Chapter on Climate Change”

Penned by Nick

For the first time in 8 years, US leadership stepped to the fore in the climate change debate and moved it beyond being a debate and into being a discussion…about action, consequences, and opportunities.

President-elect Obama shared these few words with those gathering in California this weekend to talk through a successor treaty to the Kyoto protocol.

For anyone looking to identify a key trend in the years ahead, we’d encourage you to think through how your industry will change as Obama takes office, and the economy transitions towards a more sustainable future.

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November 19, 2008 at 2:01 am 2 comments

From unemployment to green employment

The US economy shed 240,000 jobs in October alone, bringing unemployment to 6.5%. That’s more than a million jobs lost in one year. Despite the bad news, I remain optimistic. With Obama in office and promising 5mm new green jobs, it hasn’t been lost on me that his first press conference repeatedly mentioned making a transition to “clean energy” as part of his overall retooling of the American workforce. With Michigan suffering worse than most, the auto industry looks poised to serve as a prime petri dish experiment as to how dirty industries can become green ones, and in the process, realize a renaissance. No small challenge ahead, admittedly. My hope’s that Obama’s plan is more than just politics as usual, and that he’s thinking systemically — hopefully realizing our dependence on foreign oil is an unhealthy fact that we can change if we were to reinvest our money in greener infrastructure. With a large public works package being put together as part of the overall stimulus package, my second hope is that this involves wind towers and solar panels on public buildings nationwide, in addition to road revamps, school upgrades, and park restoration.

November 8, 2008 at 2:36 am Leave a comment


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