In the years after 9/11, commentators like Thomas Friedman argued that the “green” movement could be a force for fighting terrorism. The basic idea: Through alternative energy, we can achieve energy independance, choking off cash from our enemies. Nice idea, but riddled with problems. Energy independance, though a popular phrase among politicians, is basically unrealistic over the short-to-medium term. Beyond that, attempts to choke off money from the rest of the world and reduce trade don’t exactly scream “peace”.
A cynic might guess that Thomas Friedman and Co. were just doing their best to make their more liberal views sound hawkish. Hence editorials with titles like “Green: The New Red, White and Blue.” (Good luck)
Fast forward, and now the big concern is the crumbling economy. Once again it seems the solution to our problems happens to be “green”. How convenient. Both candidates for President have promised scads of green jobs, even though the promises don’t really make any sense. Van Jones, the author of a New York Times bestseller called The Green Collar Economy explains the idea in an interview with the HuffingtonPost. He argues that economic recovery depends on the government investing massive amounts into green infrastructure. The final question is telling:
What are the three best things a regular person can do to help create and grow a green economy?
Vote, vote and vote. This is not just about changing lightbulbs; this is also about changing laws. For example, as bad as gas prices were last summer, home heating prices may be more painful this winter. Let’s tell Congress not to leave Americans out in the cold. As a part of the stimulus package, the government should launch a massive winter jobs program. We could put millions to work retrofitting homes – blowing in green insulation, replacing old windows and putting in more efficient boilers. That would create jobs, cut carbon emissions and keep people warm and housed.
When the solution is to “vote vote vote”, that should be a big red flag. The internet has been amazingly transformational to the economy, but we don’t recall ever having had to support “pro-internet” candidates (yes, we’re aware the government had a role in developing the internet as we know it, but it’s been commercializing it that’s been most impressive). Even with the green sector, we’d argue that private companies — solar, wind producers, et. al. — have done way more for the cause than politicians.
No doubt, developers of green technology are some of the most exciting companies out there. And we’re as excited about them as any. Even with oil prices declining, efficiency is always in vogue. But if you really want to do something about the situation, don’t pray that our politicians get struck by a lightning bolt of enlightenment. Go to school, study to be an engineer and design an awesome fuel cell.