Renewable Energy is Not an Ideological Issue

There is nothing ideological about the issue of renewable energy resources. Proponents tend to care about the health of the natural environment, which motivates their wish to see renewables replace high-polluting fuel sources like oil and coal, but the technologies, the fact of their economic viability and their usefulness for society at large, are not in any way a matter of ideology.

Neither is there anything ideological about the allegiance of some to carbon-based fuels. The considerations are entirely practical on all sides, and we need to remember this as we try to find consensus on how to move forward, responsibly, as a civilization, in terms of our relationship to energy and the environment.

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To Create Jobs, Innovate; Don’t Favor the Least Imaginative

We will not fall magically into a rising tide of job creation, just by depriving ourselves of services and privileges we have built into our way of life and on which our prosperity depends. And we will not create jobs by privileging those industries that are doing the least to innovate. Innovation is the American way; it is what the nation has always struggled to accomplish, and it must be the cornerstone of a new job-creation boom.

It may be that moments of grave economic pressure put grave strain on a culture’s ability to give voice to and to share a common understanding of core values. It may be that after the financial collapse that struck in 2007 and 2008, the US is facing a crisis of conscience and a struggle to regain its identity. We need to remember that we can take the reins of the 21st century economic landscape, and build the economy of tomorrow.

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Oil Subsidies are Not Smart Spending

Oil as a combustible fuel is a 19th-century improvement on the 18th-century paradigm of burning coal to produce steam to run industrial machinery. The efficiency and portability of carbon-based fuels, in terms of the built-in energy they can store and which is released when they are burnt, has long been the driving factor in their popularity as an energy source. But new technologies are now making it possible to produce large amounts of portable energy sustainably, with none of the atmospheric damage resulting from the burning of carbon-based fuels.

In 2008, the five most profitable companies in the world were oil companies, their annual profits ranging from $20 billion to over $45 billion. No commercial entity in the history of humanity had ever made such immense profits. In 2009, two of the top 5 were banks, largely because oil companies’ profits had fallen as prices came back down to earth. In 2010, it again looks like oil companies were the most profitable businesses on the planet. They do not need subsidies to survive.

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Food Security is an Ethical & Economic Imperative

Food security is a central consideration of any intelligent international economic or security policy. Whether the focus of discussion or the trigger for a possible crisis is water scarcity, land use and soil erosion, ecosystem collapse, fuel or grain prices, political legitimacy or military conflict over resources, the systematic depletion of vital resources is a practical deficit no single interest or ideology can solve.

Food crisis, obviously, means human crisis, and so the scarcity of resources needed to provide sustenance puts at risk the stability of whole political systems, spanning nations and regions. We don’t need to be environmentalists to see clearly how such instability affects the security of our own economic opportunity, or even the affordability of our food supply.

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