Friday, September 11, 2009


A pet peeve for governments and companies going green is the cost, both in funding green technologies and terminating profitable but polluting companies. This is partly due to inertia, and the uncertainty of making quick returns on investments. Truth is, environmentalism can generate as much as it expends.

There are all sorts of savings to be found in emissions reductions, a combination of certain methods would save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars while cutting 1.3 billion tons of CO2 annually. Savings mostly come from buildings' emissions reduction, and, even in other areas, cuts that save money typically emphasize efficiency. In the U.S., for example, using data from a March 2009 National Geographic, more efficient electronics in homes would cut emissions 100 million tons a year, saving 9.3 billion dollars, while cellulosic biofuels slash 600 million tons of carbon, saving 3.2 billion dollars even with its' research costs factored in.

But most, if not all, CO2 cuts that require high initial investments eventually save, or begin generating profits. Distributed photovoltaic solar power in the U.S. costs 29.4 billion dollars, but then, a barrel of sunlight won't cost $176 (unlike oil). Nor do you need huge armies to control the sun. Some methods to cut emissions just need a little promotion and publicity before they start raking in revenue. Consider a freeze in deforestation in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil, which would require some primetime ad spots to overcome the fall in timber revenue and inject profits into these nations' economies.

Going green would also allow for diversifying of economies, especially of those tethered to such volatile commodities like oil (the Middle East) or diamonds (large parts of Africa), or on easily tamperable financial products (loans, mortgages, etc.). Green technologies would boost rural economies (like through cellulosic ethanol) long outshone by industrialization, and kickstart domestic demand (by marketing efficiency to consumers as value for money). More importantly, countries which develop and export CO2 reducing technologies would find steady sources of income from buyers looking to overhaul their energy systems, like the Spanish building solar power plants for American utility companies.

Economic benefits also come from better foreign relations with new allies other than the U.S. Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader has called for a retreat to Asia in foreign relations. Viewed with the DPJ's green-mindedness, Japan could work with China on the latter's green car project, bringing technological bravura and much- needed quality control. Branching out from this, Japan can begin supplying high-end products (like laptops, Walkmans and HDTVs) to China's newly wealthy, while thrifty Japanese consumers would benefit from an influx of cheap Chinese products. African economies would likely benefit more from, say, cellulosic ethanol partnerships than from condition-laden loans from the U.S.

Clearly, we have a lot to gain from going green, and companies and governments should see this. A profound change in mentality needs to start now, not just for our environment, but also for the millions of poor who would benefit from a greening of our minds.

No comments:

Post a Comment