My latest comment from the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Experts blog.
Creating a Practical, Doable Solution
As an issue, climate change – regardless of how people choose to define it – probably sits near the top of every major government’s to-do list. In a perfect world, that fact alone should be enough to spur into action the world leaders currently gathering in Copenhagen.
We do not, however, live in a perfect world. We live in a world where climate change, although a very important issue, is one of many facing policy makers with limited time, limited budgets and an expanding portfolio of pressing concerns. What can President Obama do to satisfy the world and express in action America’s commitment to addressing the probable effects of climate change? First and foremost he can look to his own country and its rich supply of innovation, creativity and domestic low-carbon resources.
The United States is home to many of the world’s leading alternative energy and carbon-neutral researchers, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. Some are academics seeking to develop low-impact resources for idealistic reasons while others are traditional energy companies looking to capitalize on the green energy market. Both should be encouraged, because fundamentally shifting the very concepts of energy and energy supply will be an expensive and a long journey.
There is no “app” for clean energy, but there is a strategy and, given time, it will likely bear fruit: (1) continue to invest in energy efficiency technologies; (2) support and encourage alternative power generation sources such as nuclear, solar, wind, bio fuels and hydro; and (3) intelligently develop existing, domestic low-carbon resources such as abundant, clean natural gas.
The practical task of changing how electricity is generated and used will not be achieved through some panacea, but through the intelligent coordination of multiple, scalable solutions which will take time and significant resources to reach. Natural gas is a major part of the solution, but we need to be realistic about what it will take to get to that carbon-neutral future and what the real costs entail.