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Calling all Nerds: The Ultimate S.A.T. Question

11/26/2006 01:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. energy independence + reduced CO2 Emissions = What?

Tough one, right? Okay, let's try it as a word problem:

First, take how much we spend maintaining our access to oil.

To make that simple, just combine the costs of Gulf War I and Gulf War II:

$65 billion plus $345 billion, that equals 410 billion, and now let's just round that up to half a trillion dollars, 'cause we're still at war, right?

Don't count human life, not dead U.S. soldiers or dead Iraqi's, that's not part of this equation.

Okay, add that to that the amount that climate change will cost the U.S.:

According to the recent report by former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern, it will be between five and 20 percent of global gross domestic product every year, forever.

So, we'll just use the mean between five to 20 percent of the U.S.'s gross domestic product:

That's 12.5% of 11 Trillion dollars (2003 GDP) equaling 1.5 trillion dollars.

Are you still with me?

Again, don't count human suffering from flooding, famine, and other unforeseen consequences. That's not part of the equation.

The grand sum adds up like this:

.5 trillion dollars (Gulf War I & Gulf War II) + 1.5 trillion dollars (12.5% of U.S. GDP) = $2 trillion dollars, and that - very roughly - is what our addiction to oil plus the estimated costs of climate change mean in to the U.S. economy in real dollars.

Here's the part where you have to do some thinking: Given these numbers, how much should we reasonably be spending to solve this problem? In real dollars. Give us a total and then break it into a pie chart distributing it into the following:

The proper amount to invest in renewable energy R&D.

Installation of current renewable energy existing government property.

Tax subsidies for installation of renewable energy into existing government property.

Construction of clean burning coal plants.

The subsidization of a plug-in flex fuel hybrid market.

Implementation of a bio-fuel infrastructure (akin to Brazil's.)

Tax credits for energy residential and conservation measures.

Be prepared to both discuss your results and even challenge these figures (Except for Sir Nicholas Stern's figures, which can't be challenged for two reasons (1) he was the freakin chief economist to the World Bank, not exactly a bunch of long hairs there, right? After all, the current president is Paul Wolfowitz and (2) Sir Nicholas Stern is a knight which means if you challenge his figures he'll impale you on a lance or mace your face or something awful, knights can do that, the Queen gives them something like an double 0 ranking plus loads of medieval weaponry. Seriously, don't question him.)

Extra credit: compare this number to the fact that the US government gave as much as 2 percent of its total gross national product to help countries rebuild from the devastation of WWII. What were the benefits to the U.S. economy then? What would be the benefits now?

Good luck!

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