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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earth Day Economics: A Green and Prosperous Future

From an article in the Shepherd Express by Doug Booth, a retired Marquette University economics professor, a founder of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and author of The Coming Good Boom: Creating Prosperity for All and Saving the Environment Through Compact Living:

The astounding success of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, under the tutelage of a true Wisconsin hero, Sen. Gaylord Nelson, marked the coming of age of the environmental movement in this country. Environmental victories in the 1970s included the passage of such landmark legislation as the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. Earth Day ushered in a new environmental era, and today the quality of our lives is much improved for it.

Unfortunately, our work remains unfinished.

Our single greatest environmental threat today is global warming brought to us by the burning of fossil fuels to power our cars, heat our homes, grow our food and fabricate and operate all our wonderful consumer gadgets. Scientists tell us that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels act like a "tea cozy" around the Earth, bringing forth dangerous environmental harms reported in the news on a daily basis—a shrinking polar ice cap, rising sea levels, more powerful storms, droughts and wildfires.

Reducing Fossil Fuel Consumption

Bringing global warming to a halt can be accomplished with a simple act—freeing ourselves from the environmental tyranny of fossil fuels. Some will say this is easier said than done, but doing so will bring on what I call a "good boom" that will lift all our boats. The "good boom" will be an economic expansion created through compact urban living, clean energy, more grassland and less corn, green cuisine, letting forests grow old and more. It will also help us address global warming. . . .

Wind and Solar Are the Future's Power Sources
Necessary to moving beyond fossil fuels is a switch to truly clean sources of renewable energy. Notwithstanding Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to bring wind energy to a screeching halt with onerous regulations, both wind and sun are the primary energy sources of the future. For example, California lawmakers recently approved a rule requiring utilities to derive one-third of their power from renewable energy sources within 10 years. As we do more of anything in our economy, its cost inevitably falls. This is happening already for both wind and solar energy. The Great Plains is on track to becoming the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, and throughout the Midwest industrial belt, old factories are quickly being refitted to produce wind generators and solar panels. Despite the naysayers, the wind and solar energy revolution is under way, bringing forth an abundance of new jobs—windsmiths, solar panel installers, weatherization specialists, solar engineers, wind and solar equipment fabricators and, here in Milwaukee, urban farmers.

To be sure, the fossil fuel industry will resist going quietly and will defend to the death its right to pollute the atmosphere without cost. Eventually, the industry will lose this battle and will pay the public piper through some form of a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

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