Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Green Initiatives and Bailout Plan Go Hand in Hand

If anyone were smiling about the global financial crisis and the accompanying drops in the Dow Jones industrial average, you might think that it would be an environmentalist. As the economy heads south, the logic goes, so will greenhouse gas emissions. A recession would specifically help in the fight against global warming, one might say.

However, if there are any environmentalists out there thinking along these lines, I’ve got bad news: There’s nothing to smile about. While emissions will likely decrease in the short term, the recession will increase emissions over the long term – unless we maintain a focus on greening our economy.

There are many ways in which the recession will hamper the transition to a sustainable economy. Drops in the prices of oil and gas have reduced the competitiveness of various sustainable technologies and, as a result, investment in these technologies has dried up.

Oilman-turned-renewable-energy-booster T. Boone Pickens, for example, has put plans for a large wind farm in western Texas on hold.

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley-based company that produces a completely electric roadster and is developing an electric sedan, was forced to lay off employees and close two offices amid fund-raising woes.

According to a report by the research firm New Energy Finance, financing for renewable energy projects dropped from $23.2 billion in the second quarter to $17.8 billion in the third quarter. The development of sustainable technology, which is essential to fighting global warming, is linked inextricably to the conditions of the economy as a whole.

Fortunately, the downturn has not had as negative an impact on the prospects of global warming legislation. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was recently elected chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing longtime chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), who used the position to delay and weaken legislation that would have increased fuel economy standards.

While President-elect Obama has said his plans for a new energy economy would necessarily be adjusted to take the recession into account, he has affirmed the commitment he made during his campaign to pass cap-and-trade legislation. Commentators and analysts who claimed that the recession would make this policy politically infeasible will most likely be proven wrong.

Although it has stalled the development of alternative energy, the recession nonetheless provides other opportunities to move toward a sustainable economy. In fact, the incoming administration has already taken steps to capitalize on these opportunities. According to The Washington Post, Obama and Democrats in Congress plan to enact a $700 billion stimulus package that would include support for renewable energy and other green efforts, a scheme that some have called a Green New Deal.

Not only is this good policy for the environment, it’s good policy for the economy. A report released in September by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Center for American Progress has outlined what a “Green Recovery Program” would look like. By spending $100 billion over two years on energy efficiency projects, such as the retrofitting of buildings and renewable energy projects like solar and wind power, the program would create two million jobs and specifically raise employment numbers in the hard-hit construction and manufacturing sectors.

The report also points out that spending the money on green programs would create four times more jobs than if it were spent on the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than if it were used to boost household consumption. The green industry is ready to grow into a pillar of the American economy.

If we’re planning on spending billions to jump-start the economy, the money should be spent on initiatives that will retool our economy to be competitive and ecologically sound in the 21st century.

Where the Tennessee Valley Authority built power lines, we should now put the unemployed back to work constructing a smart power grid that would manage our electricity to save money while reducing unnecessary consumption. Imagine high-speed rail lines whisking passengers from city to city where the Works Progress Administration once built highways, while in the process increasing trade and boosting regional economies.

American innovation and the American work ethic have led us out of economic crises before. Combined with intelligent, forward-thinking policy, they can do so again while also steering our economy towards sustainability. The sooner we plant the seed, the sooner a green recovery will bear fruit.

Somerset Perry is a senior in the College. He can be reached at perrythehoya.com. Biodegradable appears every other Friday.

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