Midterm Outlook on Limiting CO2
Much of the debate over efforts to control CO2 in the past two years revolved around legislatively-driven processes. Should CO2 be declared a hazardous pollutant and subject to EPA control? How can we best put a price on carbon—either by a direct tax or by cap and trade—to let free market economics limit the amount emitted to the atmosphere? Given the election results last Tuesday and the will of the public to limit government programs and not enact anything resembling a tax, these courses of action would appear to be off the table in the near future.
Perhaps we can achieve some of the objectives and reduce the growth of CO2 emissions by emphasizing factors that seem to fit better with the public mood: efficiency, competitiveness, and job creation.
In promoting efficiency, we should stress energy efficiency in commercial plants, home heating, and automobiles. In each case, we would save industry and individuals money that could then be spent for investment or consumer spending. Most large companies have already committed themselves to five-year efficiency goals as part of their corporate responsibility and there is also an economic payout to be achieved.
Job creation is the mantra on everyone’s lips. Of course the issue is what kind of jobs will be sustainable, high paying, and likely to stay in the US. Jobs that research, develop, and manufacture practical sources of alternative energy meet those requirements in every respect. With our educational, scientific, and venture capital capabilities, there’s no reason why we can’t be among the leaders of the world's industrialized societies. Developing economies will have vast needs for such technologies and products, but don’t have the resources to develop them. We do.
President Obama has long tried to link developing a green economy to jobs. Let’s hope the Republicans can join him on focusing on this goal, which I believe most voters would support.