Time to level the playing field; Allow Renewable Energy to develop by the same rules as Oil
There is a very unfair fight going on. I find it somewhat ludicrous that the US federal government spends tens of billions of dollars annually (dollars it doesn’t apparently have) subsidizing the oil industry — which extracts finite and diminishing resources from underground — while the industry focused aboveground on wind, solar, portable-energy storage and other renewable energies and green technologies are not afforded nearly the same level of governmental support.
Federal support for the research and development of new energy sources is lower today than at any other point in US history and, as a result, the government is putting the clean-energy sector into a competitive disadvantage. To have true competition in the energy market and ensure economic (we’d actually create jobs instead of exporting them) and national security, government must level the playing field for renewable energies.
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Am I attempting to demonize oil and gas? Nope. Not a chance. Fossil fuels have been essential for our survival and prosperity for well over 100 years, we need them now more than ever (any economist will tell you that oil is the lifeblood of the economy) and our quality of life and we will definitively need fossil fuels (in all forms) for the foreseeable future. Regardless of advancements in green technologies and renewable energies, the old oil industry won’t be disappearing anytime soon, certainly not within the lifetime of anyone reading this article. Having said that, we need strategic energy alternatives. We need to be — as much as is humanly possible — independent and self-sufficient.
For 200 years, the US has richly and rightly invested in developing new (and continually improving) sources of energy. From the 19th-century government land grants for timber and coal to the tax expenditures for the oil and gas industry in the early 1900s, to the investment in developing nuclear energy; support for energy innovation has always helped drive economic growth. However, renewable energies have not been treated the same way. When the oil, gas and nuclear industries were forming, federal support for those energies totaled over one percent of US federal spending. Tax considerations, rebates, subsidies, etc. available for the renewable energy industry is less than one-tenth of one percent of US federal spending. That doesn’t make sense and we have to do something about it.
If the goal is to encourage competition in the energy marketplace, then both the aboveground and belowground energy industries have to be treated equally. This is not about cutting all oil subsidies or attacking green energy. This is not about criticizing terrible green investments made in the past or the investments in fossil fuels that have costs billions. This is about fairness. Federal investment is critical to the success of the renewable energy industry. We have to level the playing field so that green technologies and renewable energies are bound by the exact same rules and afforded the same support as the oil industry. And we have to do it now. That is not a new idea. The same was true for coal, which would not have been economically feasible without tax exemptions and incentives. It was also true for offshore drilling, which was deemed unprofitable without royalty waiver and favorable packaging of federal leases.
We must make it a priority in North America to remove all the hurdles and disadvantages associated with renewable and green energies. If we don’t, the technologies will never advance and progress and their true potential (and the associated benefits for society) will never be realized. Energy independence is a matter of national security. It is what North America needs for our economy and our long-term survival — regardless on whether people agree with the science behind climate change. The issue of investing in renewable energies must be front and center in our collective minds. If we, as a society, don’t foster, promote and refine green technologies and renewables, we are doomed in the long term. We’ll keep transferring our wealth to the OPEC countries (and China too).
And for those who are against green technologies and renewable energy, please get your head out of the proverbial sand. You’re betting on the wrong horse. Do some research. See what immense financial sacrifices (I like to call them ‘investments’) were made by governments over the centuries for the energy industry, not to mention infrastructure (highways, freeways, roads, etc.) for society. Why? Because said investments were essential for society to function and for the economy grow, remain strong and prosper for decades. It’s no different now. Although these technologies for renewable energy are still, essentially, in their respective infancies, we need to adapt. I’ll be the first to admit that suggesting renewables will let us rapidly phase off fossil fuels in North America, the BRIC countries or the world as a whole, is laughable. But, long term, we have to plan and work towards just that. In order to move forward and advance, we must innovate the price of renewables downward. We need a dramatic increase in funding for research and development, and financial considerations and incentives to businesses, in order to create the next generations of green technology and renewable energy cheaper and significantly more effective. All technologies advance, improve, optimize over time and, ultimately, become less expensive. Imagine how much more efficient and less expensive these new green technologies and renewable energies will become over time. And those optimized gains promise to come quick. It may sound cliché, but it’s short-term pain (government investment) for long-term gain (affordable, stable, limitless energy).
Green technology and renewable energy are the new oil industry. We need renewable energies to develop by the same rules as oil. The endless clean energy aboveground can compete quite handsomely with the oil belowground; let’s just make it a fair fight.
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