Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stimulate Green Energy

"[W]hen we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases," writes Michael Pollen in the lead article of the New York Times' food issue. Rising food prices, he argues, cannot be addressed until we address core features of our food production. Among them are the basic energy and environmental issues surrounding industrial argriculture.

At the same time, we are in the midst of a very tumultuous economic situation. The immediate crisis -- the credit crisis, the swinging stock market -- may abate, but there is looming recessionary concern and little hope for immediate housing price stabilization.

Agriculture and economic growth are but two of the fundemental issues connected with our energy system. The web of issues -- and thus our nation -- could benefit tremendously from a major federal green-energy initiative. Government supported green infrastructure projects would immediately create jobs and a more inviting environment for business investment in new energy projects or technology as a bridge to a longer-lasting and more penetrating green energy economy. Development of more environment-friendly food production techniques is a component of the green energy economy and should also be supported in such initiatives.

Such a stimulus could address large pieces of many of the country's most pressing problems: greenhouse gas emissions, national security concerns based on forgein oil dependence, trade (in domestic technology), food security (by promoting long-term energy stability and affordability), and economic security.

If we are in for a bumpy economic ride, as it seems we are, government actions aimed at addressing it can also aim toward sending us in the right direction hereafter. My suggestion is to start with energy. It demands the sort of infrastructure investment that can produce short-term economic activity. In the current economic environment, that investment is only likely from governement, and the backing must be strong to have a significant impact.

Large-scale government initiatives in green energy techonolgies will encourage the kind of investment that can pay long-term national dividends. And they have a necessary role in sustaining a livable planet in the face of climate change.

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