Imagine a $700 Billion Bailout for the Environment
(For a 2010 update, read “Tax Package Changes – Renewable Energy Programs are Back in Business“.)
The economic crisis currently facing the nation has caused a flurry of political action. From McCain “suspending” his campaign to massive bailouts, the response has been immediate and serious. Even though the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street was rejected by the House of Representatives, which would have been the largest US government financial market intervention in history, I can’t help but wonder what a $700 billion bailout would do for the environment. What if the US government had responded to the twenty years of dire warnings by James Hansen in the same manner as the current economic crisis? Such an aggressive response may have stopped climate change and saved our economy through green jobs and technology.
Government scientists, like James Hansen, have been muzzled for warning us that the Earth “is nearing… a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undesirable consequences.” Sounds like the sky is falling to me, but when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says it, the government takes note. As Bruce Marks, founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) explains:
Paulson says the sky is falling, we have to bail out Bear Stearns, $30 billion; the sky is falling, we have to bail out Fannie and Freddie, $200 billion; the sky is falling, we have to bail out AIG, $85 billion.
I can’t fathom $700,000,000,000. Jon Stewart told us $700 billion is equal to around 2,000 McDonald’s apple pies per individual American. The investment could turn our economy green on a larger scale rather than fatten us up on apple pies. As Van Jones explains:
It’s time to stop borrowing and start building. America’s No. 1 resource is not oil or mortgages. Our No. 1 resource is our people. Let’s put people back to work — retrofitting and repowering America. … You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.
Former presidential candidate John Edwards and the NRDC proposed the April 2008 $100 billion stimulus package be spent on green infrastructure investments, such as “retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency, expanding mass transit and freight rail, constructing ‘smart’ electrical grid transmission systems, wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels.” The program was even proposed to be paid for by auctions of carbon permits and would have created two million jobs!
What could 700 billion do for the environment if invested in a green economy? The economic crisis is real, and I don’t know the solution, but climate change is also real. I just wonder when the environment will get its bailout.
Image: My Hero