Thinking Tech

Just give green energy an even break

Just give green energy an even break

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The issue here is market incentives that encourage what we want and discourage what we don't. Even global warming deniers don't like coughing, or black lung, or the risks of oil spills, do they?

Global warming deniers love questioning the motives of green energy advocates. This is from our comments:

Global warming is the biggest scam in a long line of scams designed to scare people into surrendering their rights to a bunch of elitist freedom-ophobes who don't trust the rest of us to make the right decisions on our own.

The science was manipulated, they say. Greenland was green, they say. (Actually the name was an early form of marketing.) What about the medieval climate optimum? (Not as warm as it is now, turns out.) What about the birch trees? (They didn't grow back.)

Why aren't we doing more questioning of the motives behind climate change denial? Could it be money? Because deniers have more skin in this game than you think.

Tax incentives are still tilted heavily toward carbon. As George Soros notes, "carbon credits" are just a way to make carbon pay its way. Saying no to that is like letting a real estate developer beg off on building silt fences or sewers into his project -- you're just passing the buck to someone else.

How much more capital is needed? McGill University researchers say putting just two-tenths of one percent of global domestic product into these industries would bring us a carbon-free future. Even with our current paltry investment, the fuel cell industry says they will employ 700,000 people within 10 years.

The issue here is market incentives that encourage what we want and discourage what we don't. Even global warming deniers don't like coughing, or black lung, or the risks of oil spills, do they?

Even the conservative Foreign Affairs magazine gets this. Focus on investment, not on regulation, they say.

Invest in what? Well, geothermal for one thing. Wind energy, which is still viable. Keeping up with the Chinese, for another.

Or how about spray-on solar cells? New Energy Technologies Inc., best known for its Motion Power product for capturing energy from moving cars, has just announced transparent solar cells that can be sprayed onto any glass surface.

The company has published a paper on what it calls SolarWindows, which use conducting polymers in place of silicon, resulting in the production of electricity not just from direct sunlight but from a variety or spectra, including flourescent lights inside a building. You can use glass, plastic, or even paper as a substrate.

Two days after the announcement New Solar, which trades under the ticker symbol NENE, remains a penny stock. The whole company is worth less than $40 million. In the oil patch that's soda money. Even a Nigerian 419 scam can get raise more than that out of Houston in a year.

If alternative energy just gets an even break, miracles like this are possible, and can be scaled into production rapidly. Fact is, green energy doesn't get a break. We're still subsidizing carbon instead.

Forget saving the Earth for your grandchildren, global warming deniers. Don't you want to make some money? Why are we as a nation investing, through tax breaks, in dirty technology and dying industries, when we could be making fortunes in new ideas with enormous growth potential?

Change the market incentives, before China does and takes this market away from us, too.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure