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Greenenvy's Comments

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The Danger of Green Stimulus

The Danger of Green Stimulus

Commented Jan 6, 2009 at 23:42:21 in Green

“You make many good points, but I think there is a serious misconception about the costs of renewable energy technologies. First, your use of the word "cheap". "Cheap" is a relative term. So to make renewable energy technologies cheaper than conventional fuels makes sense. However, the price of conventional fuels fluctuates, so we can make renewables cheaper by making conventional fuels more expensive. This is infinitely more expedient that actually trying to lower the cost of generating renewable energy. RE isn't as expensive (or cheap) as it is now simply because some people want to make more profit. RE costs what it costs due to the cost of materials, capital, and energy required to build and install the technologies.
Second, economic stimulus only makes sense in the short run, so the effective measures cannot be expected to provide all the long-term climate benefits that we eventually want to see.”

hp blogger Jesse Jenkins on Jan 7, 2009 at 15:06:32

“Cheap is certainly a relative term, and I do in fact mean "cheaper than fossil fuels."

But when I say "cheap," what I really mean is "cheaper than fossil fuels... in China."

You know how you always add "...in bed" to the end of fortune cookie fortunes? Well when we talk about global warming, you'd better add "...in China" to the end of every phrase.

You see, in order to halt and reverse the rise in global emissions, we need clean and massively scalable energy sources that are cheap enough to power sustainable development in the Chinas of the world. These rapidly developing nations are where the bulk of future emissions growth will occur, and policymakers in these countries have repeatedly said they will not impose on themselves higher prices for dirty energy if it means sacrificing their economic development efforts. After all, they are pulling billions of global citizens out of poverty on a development path that's no worse than the one we already pursued in the US, so how can we begrudge them in their efforts.

I call this the Development Trap: until we have both clean AND cheap energy sources to power sustainable development, we'll be stuck either sacrificing our climate in the name of global development, or condemning billions of global citizens to energy poverty in order to save our climate. Neither course is tenable, and we need clean AND cheap energy sources to break out of the trap.”