Washington is known for being green - both in color and in ecological consciousness. In Washington we are hikers, fisherman, artists, students, and small business owners. We live where the rain pitter patters on rooftops 155 days of the year. We live in a place where gay rights were equal rights three years before our country caught up with us. We live where big corporations and small businesses thrive equally, home to Starbucks, Microsoft, and the unique booths at Pike Place Market. In Washington state we produce so much excess hydroelectric energy that we sell it to other states. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy: of Washington State’s energy production 77% of it is hydroelectric. Renewable energy is the future, and within next twenty years it will take over the way we drive our cars to the way we burn our toast. We are faced with a decision to either lead the vanguard or to lose the war. Climate change is detrimental to our world with the only possible path towards a future being renewable energy. Renewable energy capitalism is a plan of action that proposes how we would produce the amount of energy necessary to provide for the entire world, how we would transport this renewable energy, and what customer base and potential benefits this solution poses for our nation and world as a whole.
Oil and coal are finite resources: that is not new information to anyone here. However, the United States is being very slow to make the switch towards renewable energy listing any number of excuses as to the reason why. We still have oil, why switch? Going green is expensive - we just don’t have the money. And one of my personal favorites from Texas Congressman Joe Barton, “wind power would stop the Earth from rotating.” And plainly, most Americans just don’t think it matters enough. 30% of Americans don’t believe in climate change. And of those that do less than 10% believe it’s our biggest priority. Most Americans are more disquieted by the proposition of global terrorism which killed 32,700 people in 2014 - not as scary to me as the fact that approximately 7 million people a year die of pollution related illnesses. Yet, when you try to have a conversation with nearly anyone about climate change they tune out. Our society would rather hear nails on a chalkboard than about the impending devastation that is global warming. However, if we continue to ignore this problem, if we continue to shove the skeleton into the closet and pretend we don’t smell the rot then we will die.
The Koch Brothers are well known for their investments in petroleum. They protect their assets, however their way of protecting their assets is not necessarily protecting the American people or the perpetuation of the world. The Koch Brothers spend over $21 million each year funding companies such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. These companies are paid to confuse Americans into believing that climate change is a hoax. The Koch Brothers make $3,000,000 per hour based on a typical 40 hour work week. To put this in perspective, it costs them a day’s wages to lie to the American people. The American Legislative Exchange Council said on their official website that air pollutants have “dropped by 72% on average.” This statistic is cherry-picked from data presented by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and distorts the truth. The real statistic is that aggregate, or vehicle emissions have dropped 63% since 1980. Have you upgraded your car since 1980? As newer vehicles are held to higher standards such as stricter emissions testing we should have the expectation that this statistic would decline. In fact, according to the World Health Organization outdoor pollution has risen 8% in the last year alone. And more importantly, CO2 emissions have risen 18% since 1980 leaving more than half the total population of the United States in an area dangerous to their health. People aren’t getting scared enough of this terrifying problem that we are facing on a global scale. 1,000 ways to die isn’t enough when you’re talking about climate change. One option: we could continue to burn through the atmosphere with excess carbon until the Sun literally fries us to death. Oh wait, that’s called skin cancer, and over the past three decades skin cancer has become more prevalent than all other cancers combined. One person dies of melanoma skin cancer each hour. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. So look around the room people, the Sun’s gonna get some of you...that is if it hasn’t already.
Climate change is undeniably real. And we have only the slightest hint at the precipice we are falling over as we live and breathe on this world which is falling apart from within. The future of our environment and the future of our economy could very well come from the same place. The Koch brothers and other agencies in power would selfishly have you believe that America, and the world, are ‘fine’. We are not. We are faced with a problem astronomically larger than anyone cares to say. Greed is a deadly sin and destroying the world is a price that will be paid in regret.
Think back to the space race, the whole country enamoured with our triumph; this is the renewable energy race and we have a chance to lead the charge. Renewable Energy Capitalism proposes a mass investment in various renewable sources that would satisfy our energy needs without the environmental impact. West Virginia could replace all of its electricity with just 2% of its geothermal potential. Yet, West Virginia is the leading coal producer in the United States, 94% of their energy comes from coal. Change the perspective: invest in constant, inexhaustible energy, sell the excess, and abandon the dirty, destructive carbon industry. Every second the Sun produces enough energy to power the world for half a million years. We avoid its development because we would rather use the land for livestock or agriculture however with the development of solar roofing we can generate energy from unused space. Also Tesla’s storage battery makes each house self sufficient and would save the average American family $3,500 annually. The Federal Government could give a tax credit in full for anyone who purchases any form of solar roofing and encourage states to add building codes for storage batteries and solar shingles in each new or remodeled home. We can also use creative solar collection devices. A company called Ubiquitous Energy has come up with a solar window which is completely see-through and harvests ultraviolet light. This means that city buildings will have an equal if not a greater opportunity to maximize their solar potential. Above all encourage each state to focus on increasing their renewable production. For Washington our greatest potential has always been hydroelectric energy, for West Virginia it’s geothermal.
The second-largest enterprise of this endeavor would be the transportation of energy. This has been made simple by a new kind of battery: the liquid-metal battery invented by MIT professor Donald Sadoway. It is designed to last a long time, store a lot of energy, and be built at a super low cost with Earth abundant materials. Enough energy is stored in one battery for 200 American households for 2 hours. That may not sound like much but that same energy consumption would provide 7,000 Indian households for the same amount of time. Many third world countries that still rely on coal or even burning cow patties to get warmth or basic electricity. This is like Prometheus giving humans fire, suddenly India and other third world countries would have access to the internet and electricity. First-world countries such as the United Kingdom have a different issue: their consumption is greater than their solar and wind energy potential. Our land mass gives us an opportunity to generate more energy than we require something that many countries like these cannot muster.
Last year renewable energy investment rose to $260 billion and created 2.3 million jobs on the private sector alone. The renewable energy industry as a whole is worth several trillion dollars. Renewable energy capitalism could easily profit enough money that we wouldn’t have to decide between military spending and social programs. Every American could go to college for free. Every American could have healthcare. We wouldn’t have to be burdened by taxes because the rest of the world would be paying for it by buying our product once again. We’d be manufacturers again, just not the kind everyone thought we would be. By 2030 renewable energy will have produced 12 million jobs globally. One wave and tidal power system could create upwards of 2,000 jobs by itself. The jobs are out there, Donald Trump’s just looking in the wrong place. This plan is a win win situation any way you slice it, it saves lives, creates jobs, and gives money back to the American people. Renewable energy is an easy sell.