Green Energy Better and More Sustainable without Subsidy

Green Energy Better and More Sustainable without Subsidy

There is no doubt in my mind that green / renewable energy is capable of being sustainable without subsidies or even a CO2 price.   Articles such as the one I recently read put doubt in many readers as they approach the issue on the basis of competition with fossil fuel.   With subsidies and a CO2 price, renewable energy will come into the market; but the adoption into society as the right thing to do may not come as quick.    The role of the government, as many see it, is to not only provide for essential infrastructure (roads, police, etc…) but to also induce appropriate behavior.  Our decision on appropriateness can range significantly.  Personally, I believe appropriate behavior will develop and be produced from innovators capitalizing on the fact that people will make good choices when someone makes it easy for them.  This is an optimistic stance on humanity in that the premise is that the natural tendency is to do good.  Let me caveat my statement, major behavior changes involving humane treatment for our fellow men do require government intervention (e.g. slavery, racism, etc…) to progress in a timely fashion.  In terms of renewable, innovation in marketing and advancing the value of renewable has been very poor.  I would suggest a reason for this is the subsidies.  Subsidies have crowded out the innovators and put the path for renewable in the hands of mega-corporations.  Significant lifestyle innovation does not come from large corporations, though much credit should be given to them for lowering cost of production for renewables.

I want to focus my case for renewables without subsidies on the organic food industry.  The organic food industry was far from being promoted by the US government.  Organic food trend also encompasses the desire to purchase local farmed products.   There was no subsidy or “push” by government.  The product is a premium in cost compared to the non-organic food.  However through the innovative entrepreneurial spirits of people involved in companies such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc… society has a rather large and growing organic food industry.   This was not done by pushing cost to people who could not afford or see value from it.   A decent portion of society has naturally decided that it would be appropriate to purchase from local farmers and to reward organic food producers and marketers.  Those who could initially afford it eventually allowed more people to afford it later – as seen by Walmart offering organic food.

There is no doubt in my mind someone can take a segment of the economy to push forward into renewables.   It is matter of changing the approach and tact on renewables.   So many people have a deep commitment in green living, but act so little upon it.  When I note some of the hypocrisy in their lifestyle choices, many note they don’t plan to change their lifestyle significantly unless we all do it.   This is the failure of leadership.  In addition, it shows no one has learned to extract a potential revenue stream.  Someone needs to be able to create a mechanism where it makes it easy and desirable to be green.  True innovation requires innovative marketing.  People are always trying to relate renewables with fossil fuel.   Learn from Apple, my Apple fanatic friends would give no credence to any competition/comparison with the PC.  I can envision the possibility of creating communities /neighborhoods where people choose to pay a premium to live a renewable and efficient way of living.   Obviously I am not Steve Jobs of renewables, so I can only envision so much in the future on how this revolutionary way of developing renewables may unfold.  It could be quite a game changing event, if people chose a lifestyle that would incorporate and unify the energy incentives of the developer, property manager, and tenant. 

A better tomorrow can be achieved if we realize the individual and the various actors involved in energy use cannot make the time to individually make appropriate lifestyle decisions when in aggregate make a large difference.  Energy is a means to an end.  An innovator is needed to make it easy and desirable to change our choices.   As Steve Jobs has said “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”   Remove and/or transfer the mechanism of subsidies to the innovators not the corporation, if you truly want society to massively and effectively adopt renewables and efficient living.

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David K. Bellman


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