Energy & Environment

A simple choice for U.S. with clean energy technology: Do we want to import or export it?

David Roland-Holst

I recently joined a number of economic experts to testify before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) about the economic impacts of the state’s landmark global warming pollution bill (AB 32). The majority opinion was that California’s economy will continue to grow at a healthy rate, with relatively little impact from the clean-energy policies in this bill, but I must differ with this view.

While mainstream economic projections estimate AB 32 impacts that fall within a range of negligible positive or negative economic growth rates, only one study considers innovation potential.

I cannot imagine our state, the birthplace of revolutions in information technology and biotechnology, responding to any policy of this importance by turning off its innovation engine.

Just look at California’s response to energy-efficiency standards. Over the last 35 years, California established first-in-the-nation building and appliance standards, and energy-efficiency innovations sparked by those standards saved households $56 billion in energy costs, which they in turn spent mainly on local goods and services, generating 1.5 million additional jobs and $45 billion in payrolls.

Why wouldn’t the same ingenuity be ignited by these new energy policies? And if it is, then what would be the economic impacts?

I decided to find out. Using the Berkeley Energy and Resources (BEAR) model, a state-of-the-art, economywide forecasting tool, my study analyzed the comprehensive set of policies in CARB’s scoping plan, and tracked complex market interactions across key elements of the state’s economy. To capture the financial impact of innovation, I simply assumed that California will continue to improve energy efficiency at its historical rate of 1.5 percent per year. The state’s official modeling work assumes technology characteristics remain static and includes a flat rate of energy efficiency for the time period considered (2008-2020).

The results? California’s clean-energy policies could be a very potent source of economic stimulus. If we assume only our historical rate of efficiency improvement — not far-fetched in the face of every ascending energy prices — California will grow faster and farther under these policies than it would otherwise. My analysis shows that in 2020, California will experience 3 percent higher GSP and 2.2 percent more employment because of innovation responses to AB 32. For California households, this means about $1,500 more income in that year alone, while the economy creates 73,000 additional jobs.

AB 32 has not even been implemented yet, but there has already been significant innovative response. Since the passage of this law, capital investment in clean-energy technology has skyrocketed. Even as the rest of the economy slowed down, showing negative job growth between 2005 and 2007, jobs in the clean-energy sector grew at a healthy pace of 5 percent. New businesses are being born, new jobs created.

Energy by revenue is the largest industry in the world. Clean energy represents the next breakout technology sector, and like IT and biotech before it, with the potential to earn billions of dollars for early innovators. China recognizes this opportunity and wants to own the next generation of technology the world will have to use. That’s why it is investing $12.6 million in this sector every hour. In the long run, we won’t have a choice about needing the technology, our choice is whether we want to import or export it.

California’s landmark climate and energy policies have already put us in the forefront of technology and energy innovation. If we sustain this leadership, energy and emissions technologies will assume their rightful place among the knowledge-intensive sectors, IT and biotech, that have delivered so much prosperity to our state.

The Contra Costa Times published a prior version of this commentary.

Bookmark and Share
Comments to "A simple choice for U.S. with clean energy technology: Do we want to import or export it?":
    • Jennifer Doherty


      So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.

      United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.

      “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.

      Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
      t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.

      The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees`.

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John '63

      Why aren’t UC and LLNL focused building “A Nuclear Hybrid” as reported in Forbes Magazine by Jonathan Fahey, April 13, 2009???
      http://www.forbes.com/global/2009/0413/046-research-lasers-reinventing-nuclear-power.html

      What could be better than a fusion-fission hybrid reactor that would produce clean electricity and remove dangerous nuclear waste, as well as solve our water problems???

      But the reality is that President Eisenhower warned us in his 1961 “Farewell Address to the Nation”:
      “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

      Ike’s grave warning was confirmed by Freeman Dyson in his 1997 book “Imagined Worlds” chapter on “Ethics”:
      “pure scientists have become more detached from the mundane needs of humanity, and the applied scientists have become more attached to immediate profitability.”

      And as Sir John Maddox explained further in his 1998 book “What Remains to be Discovered” chapter on Avoidance of Calamity”:
      “rhetoric of survival is not matched by resolution”

      Thus we have a fast track term realizable choice to protect humanity from out of control tipping point consequences of Global Warming we are already experiencing, but no one really appears to care to do anything but continue to prove Ike, Dyson and Maddox correct while humanity continues on the road to calamity.

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John '63

      Some advice that Cal scholars must heed, or we can forget about saving humanity from climate changes due to our failures to communicate and act in time:

      “— science needs a face, a representative (or representatives) as charismatic as Pope John Paul II or, say, the late Carl Sagan. Right now, the faces of science are selected by book sales, television specials, and pure self-promotion; its elected leaders, the heads of scientific societies, rarely function as public figures. Surely there is a better way, and the future will be all the better for it.” —
      Corey S. Powell, “Corrective Goggles for Our Conceptual Myopia” published by http://www.edge.org in John Brockman’s “Edge” book “What Are You Optimistic About?”

      Today, Berkeley, and all other, academic/scientific scholars are “Us” and the rest of humanity is “Them” in the Us/Them dichotomy that is the root cause of our extinction due to your failures to communicate with humanity outside your Ivory Towers (as discussed by Robert Sapolsky in the same Edge book).

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John '63

      David, speaking of the urgent needs of California for control over global warming there are some excellent papers produced by passionate, committed, brilliant UC professors and students in 2006, including Roger Cohn, Sandy Tolan and Orville Schell who were at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism at the time:

      Extreme science by Michael Zielenziger
      Jay Keasling’s synthetic solutions by Erik Vance
      Plug and go: new hybrids by Daniel Kammen and Jim Williams
      Remarks from the China-U.S. Climate Change Forum
      Global warning: Map
      Global warning reports:
      - Kilimanjaro by Kate Cheney Davidson
      - Churchill, Canada by John Mooallem and Nick Miroff
      - Bangladesh by Emilie Raguso and Sandhya Somashekhar
      - Tanganyika by Jori Lewis
      - Tuvalu by Alexandra Berzon
      Flower power: a profile of John Harte by Peter Alsop
      California at risk: Map by the Geographic Information Science Center
      China’s sorrow by Orville Schell
      The blackest market by WuNan
      The unforbidden city by Harrison Fraker
      Can we adapt in time? By Sandy Tolan

      These papers were originally published by California Magazine in the September/October 2006 “Global Warning” special award winning issue, but the most recent editors chose to delete them from the Internet for unknown reasons.

      It is imperative that these papers be made available again for all Californians to read for educational purposes to stimulate climate change awareness on critical issues that impact us most disastrously today, including increasing threats to public health and safety, pollution, drought, crop reductions, losses and failures, increasingly out of control wildfires, increasingly polluted water sources and reductions in acceptable water supplies, snowpack failures, storms, sea level rise, flooding, deforestation, temperature rise, and that’s just what California is experiencing today.

      We MUST do a better job today by educating the general population on global warming and increasingly unacceptable consequences of state and local political failures to address the problems, so that the vast majority of voters will demand political actions with the required sense of urgency to protect and preserve an acceptable quality of life for future generations of Californians and humanity.

      [Report abuse]

    • Jennifer Jordan

      So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.

      United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.

      “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.

      Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.

      Where protection for people forced to flee environmental or climate disasters can be found within existing instruments, however, is in cases of internal displacement. More specifically, many experts believe that the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement can and actually do provide adequate protection for people who are forced to migrate within their own borders. A non-binding synthesis of international legal norms and human rights law, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement offer protection and assistance to displaced persons within the borders of their state of origin. Khalid Koser, the former Deputy Director of the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, has argued that ‘the normative framework for people displaced by the effects of climate change inside their own country is better developed than for people displaced outside their country’. So, while those displaced internally qualify as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and thus are protected by international humanitarian law under the 1998 Guiding Principles, those forced to cross an international border for reasons other than specific forms of persecution are not. As Walter Kälin, the UN Special Representative for the human rights of internally displaced persons, has said: ‘existing human rights norms and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide sufficient protection for those forcibly displaced inside their own country… [but] the main challenge is to clarify or even develop the normative framework applicable to persons crossing internationally recognized state borders’.

      [Report abuse]

Leave a comment

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


1 × 1 =