[As usual here, this is still a rough draft. it could use a lot of editing, and at a minimum, I will flesh it out with some supporting links at a later date.]
I am not convinced our elected officials truly understand what “Winning the Future,” really entails. They fail to see how badly we are currently losing any prospect that the future will be a hospitable one.
It is widely accepted the climate is changing. The cause of that change is more controverstial, and the conversation surrounding the cause is politically divisive. So…
Recommendation #1 : Avoid Controversy. (Stop focusing on climate change!)
It is prudent to ask, “How do we mitigate the biggest known risks from a changed climate?” The global food crisis, conflicts over water rights, retreating shorelines, etc. These are recognized problems now or down the line. Better to focus on them rather than attempts to regulate carbon (especially via cap and trade schemes) - a waste of political capital along with other issues.
In reality, we have more pressing matters on our plate that are a lot less controversial. Peak Oil is a good starting point. Stories today in The Wall Street Journal, and The Raw Story reveal that both ExxonMobil and Shell have admitted they’re having a hard time finding new oil. The only real controversy regarding Peak Oil is when it will arrive, not if it will. (If you ignore Swiftboater Jerome Corsi’s laughable theory that oil is magically created by the earth as a renewable resource.)
Even if there were no climate change at all, the future simply can not include oil as an energy source. We should be planning for that. There really might be less time than we think. And the impact of early arrival would be pretty devastating. Consider:
[In 1940, an American] farmer was using roughly a calorie of fossil fuel to make a calorie of food. Today, that same farmer is using roughly 10 calories of fossil fuel to make a calorie of food. ~ Roger Manning
This alone is reason to be investing heavily in alternative energy sources. That figure is for growing the food in locations far away from most cities. If you’re not supporting local food production already, you should consider it, as an insurance policy if not for the multitude of other good reasons. Are you having a difficult time imagining the other disastrous effects Peak Oil could bring? Watch the important documentary What a Way to Go: Life at the end of Empire.
The metaphoric theme of the documentary is the speeding train we are collectively on as a nation and a planet. Spaceship Earth has a life support issue looming. It is time to step off the train and build a boat.
The issues facing us are serious and urgent. Recycling, electric cars, “clean” coal, and similar small efforts are too little, too late. We need consensus on big efforts to avoid the end of the tracks. Building consensus to move forward requires…
Recommendation #2: Find projects and investments that are low cost, have large payoffs, solve accepted real world problems, and/or solve multiple problems with one stroke. There are lots of them…
Invest heavily in Alternative Energy. Throw a wide net of small-ish grants and investments. Maybe a Government sponsored X-Prize. Promise additional funding to projects that demonstrate they’ve achieved a working prototype and have a workable plan for bringing their innovation to production. Assess the Economies of Scale: How many units would you have to sell to get the price-point affordable? How could we accelerate reaching that point? Could we replace some foreign aid to countries with donations of windmills, or solar panels, or ultra energy efficient refrigeration, etc?
Imagine an initiative that would motivate kids to pursue science education, reduce or eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, encourage the return of our manufacturing base (Detroit would be a great start), reduce unemployment with previously mythical “green jobs,” and help ordinary homeowners to save on their energy bills while further employing people to install new tech. Win. Win. Win. Win and then some. Oh, and you reduce carbon emissions, but don’t tell anyone. Remember Recommendation #1.
A Key Line Plow is a very simple and efficient plow. It takes [1/3?] the horsepower to pull, meaning a smaller tractor (easier to be powered by renewables). Lower farming costs with greater yields: this plow doesn’t turn over the earth killing beneficial aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in one fell swoop. It vibrates a groove up to 2 feet deep aerating the soil without destroying its health. Oh, and along with deeper yields we could be sequestering much greater amounts of carbon (shh!) while growing healthier plants with less fossil fuel or fertilizer at lower costs. Who wouldn’t be in favor of providing incentives to farmers for this. It could be paid for by reducing traditional farm subsidies.
Fast-track zones for alternative building permits. A lot of things people want to do are against the law, or simply so different from what city inspectors are used to, that permits stall in the hands of scared permit approvers. There are many new/old building techniques that are a lot cheaper than traditional techniques. Earthships. Cob. Strawbale. Earthbags. People could be building energy efficient homes with local renewable or recycled materials. Some designs have withstood the test of time. Others could really benefit for the government doing some testing on them. If a method is tested safe for earthquakes, flood, and fire, offer training in that technique to unemployed people and potential home builders in the form of an aid project to Haiti, New Orleans, Afghanistan, etc. Keep thinking, “How do we leverage solutions to one problem into addressing multiple problems simultaneously?”
Recommendation #3: Stop funding faux green projects. Especially Nuclear. I am avoiding the controversial environmental arguments regarding Nuclear and “Clean” Coal per Recommendation #1. Stick to the well documented issues: It takes $Billions of up front funding and 7 years to bring a nuclear plant on-line. In today’s technological age, 7 years is forever. By the time it comes on line, you’ll be kicking yourself. The same amount of money will likely buy more wind and solar capacity in a few months than the nuclear plant can produce. A few hundred jobs in one location, or thousands of jobs nationwide? which do you think will be a better investment. (not to mention that Peak Uranium is just as real as Peak Oil, although the timeline is less certain)
Nuclear research is fine. When we have a good reactor design that will burn our current waste stockpile as fuel, then by all means, build a couple. It will be cheaper than building a giant vault in the mountains for the stuff. Until then, you’re wasting our time and money.
Imagine the impact on geopolitics if The United States were to pivot away from Nuclear energy while investing in solar and wind. Imagine if we offered a large donation of solar panels, windmills, or other alternative energy tech to Iran in exchange for them dropping their nuclear program. We tried Preemptive War it’s rather expensive and the results are questionable at best. Let’s try Preemptive Peace while simultaneously employing people and attaining economies of scale so America can afford to attain energy independence, thus improving our prospects of peace and a future our progeny will thank us for.
It’s not as hard as we’re making it. Avoid Controversy. Leverage Solutions. The sooner we start, the sooner we win.