Home>Latest Shows>>Economics and the Environment - Part 2

Economics and the Environment - Part 2

May 18, 2012|

A discussion with Kristen Sheeran, the Director of the Economics For Equity And The Environment Network (www.e3network.org), about the correlation between the national and global economy and the effort to save our planet from the current environmental crisis.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

You're listening -- mad just -- a series of interviews with people of interest in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington I'm your host -- Douglas I -- about to continue my conversation with -- -- in the director of economics for equity and the environment network or. PDX dot com and download the first part of the interview here it's quite fascinated -- I -- pick up where we left off but for those joining us just now -- Give people a little bit of background on what exactly. Sure -- -- director between network where national network and economists who are committed to developing new and better argument for protecting people on the environmental. So we're really about making economics real and using the toolkit of economists to actually support environmental protection -- -- can't afford it which this so often seemed to be the case. Well we gonna kind of rehash a little bit in this further conversational we do we talked about the last half power. But that's based register people draining -- -- that's a brief have you been following the whole time. But with the science of climate change growing concern. Has certainly in this area we're lucky in that. Basically it's equated to gloomy Summers which is -- you know certainly better than hurricane or a tornado knocked her house down her fires a reporter also -- world is dealing with but with that means so certain now why. Haven't we been able to get legislation pass I'm on national scale. Well I mean I think there is there are a lot of reasons of course there's there's the usual sort of you know entrenched interest right we're up against. Some strong lobbying power and effort and money associated with BP oil and gas and and and coal lobby. But don't sources that -- never have existed before and I managed to get you know we went after the big tobacco companies and finally we've sort of now have a country that's moving away from cigarette smoking. There's an amazing just like in the last ten years back -- NASCAR you know. Sort of it can be done so I'm and I don't wanna I don't wanna give them too much credit for having reported on efforts thus far I think that's you know. More fundamental I mean it's there at the challenge. And of course you know it seemed like any piece -- their actual legislation that can change impacts on the ground coming to Washington these days seems to be enormously challenging. All that aside I I think -- one major issue of course is that the science of climate change which Aggies head is you know and so uncertain at this point in time that it hasn't really translated. Four people in two dollar impact. That I think there is still you know climate change was capped an environmental issue and I think some people still largely see it as an environmental issues and -- And not only that but a political issue to be handing him about a became one sides called arms to shoot. And the other side saying no because that's what they do occur right you know instead of actually looking at what was being said. Right and as -- environmental economists -- -- I you know I can see the economics of almost every environmental issue but -- -- you know it really is the case with respect to climate change because the major contributor climate change of course the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels -- energy which is the basic input into all economic activity worldwide. Is that the core of the climate problem. And that sort of the magnitude of the issue of the challenge that we're dealing with them out of the comment that's fundamentally an economic issue and so either you sort of need to address the issue on economic terms. And I think the fact that so many people different climate change as well but it's an environmental issue -- -- we believe the science course Smart people were well read people we believe the client. But it's still an environmental issue with they still don't really fully understand I think a lot of people is what it is going to mean to the quality of their life. On the quality of life on the and the livelihoods of their children. What it'll mean for people's community at their regions how will be changed how we have to adapt to how we have to do business differently. I don't think people fully understand what those potential ramifications are and inheritance. Part of the reason why people don't understand it is because we haven't really done a very good job of telling that part of the story is quite made it sort of share earnings in anecdote. I was this is about two or three days ago before the sun came out important this is all news. Yeah that's -- we had -- about three days ago I was reading home on the bus from work and a bunch of people on the bus were complaining and we are all prone to do on the northwest about. How how gloomy and whether it did then and and then people start talking specifically about sort of what they were observing with respect to their gardens and -- comparing this spring collapse. Spraying in terms of political and really cold -- really clarity and really wet. An answer to all people who you know they're not their cards aren't taking off. Right and there was one woman who basically -- is -- and nobody was talking about climate change at this point but she sort of said what she you know. It's been two years that this sort of whether I mean if it isn't going to be the new normal. How he's going to grow any. Right you referring to her backyard garden yeah. But you know. That's the question is yeah if the web sentiment in the credit system is going to change that your medically how are you going to grow food. Well we're not ignoring everything -- didn't -- played there that we are now -- and if you look at some of the estimates coming out of the food and agricultural organization. Out of the United Nations and so forth. The impact on food supplies worldwide. Are extremely dire Allen and thinking what freshwater supplies so. Mean these are fundamental issues to get his basic health and livelihood of people not only in our country but of course others worldwide where they don't have the resources and the infrastructure to -- adapt nearly Israeli and as we may have here. And I think until people start to understand what these sort terrorist impact means mean and how fundamental they are. To everyday life. Then it can still remains an environmental issue with the help polar bears -- you may be -- about flooding in some low lying island nation somewhere right and that's about as much of the impact and to -- most. Well engineer telling you equate this food issue with your pocketbook if we do I mean certainly you know humanity has gone -- -- gone through a lot. But -- -- we can certainly adjust to some of these things and if we need to move worm food is grown and developed we can we can do that -- what that means to your pocketbook is that those prices for that's that's gonna go through the roof I mean there already is just because of fuel prices. Right I mean and it's so that sort of speak to the the lack of resilience you know that is that is. Inherent to -- to our energy and -- system at the moment -- the fact that here's a fossil -- dependent right course for fossil -- dependent on foreign oil supplies that are increasingly unstable and -- reliable -- if anybody wanted a reason to start thinking about how can -- -- -- -- -- system and can change our transportation systems and our energy systems to be less -- -- and -- local -- homegrown energy seems a lot more appealing -- -- look at these -- of instability that -- that we're grappling -- right now been -- threatened to basically keep -- -- -- in a recession -- Flash. Recovery that's very slowly and barely inching along depending upon who you ask him in the first place. So let's talk about speaking of energy -- some of the the the the clean energy ideas that are coming forward and various pieces of legislation trying to be passed put clean energy into place proponents of clean energy seemed to promise that that's going to help the economy is going to promised new jobs and efficiency but there is an apparent lack of traction for such a thing oh why is that -- that says skepticism when it seems like. You know if you're certainly right now with a -- way it is. Helping things out and offering more jobs seems like that would be a huge boon. Right and I think it's a couple of things happening on the one hand pitcher really -- to scale of the technologies that we need to -- former energy system. To make things like wind and solar and geothermal and other potential energy sources both on imagined at this point in time to get those. To the point where they are cost competitive with fossil fuels takes. A certain amount of time and it also takes getting the technology up to a particular size and scale of capacity and we're not quite there yet although I have been amazed at how quickly we are moving along the cost curve. For both of those. Both for both wind and solar as well as a -- of other potential energy sources on the recent years so their costs are coming down becoming increasingly competitive. Irina gets back when we spoke to -- in the first segment of the interview which is. You know the stuff happens gradually and while some of that technology who might not be there right this minute it is being developed it'll be along shortly. Right and the truth is of course that this pick if we have the right set of incentives in place could be developed a lot more quickly I mean you know what is the -- what we -- think what are the administer capital to -- displayed in alternative -- right where they think the demand for alternative energy is going to come from well. Clearly if there was say in ailing national program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels there would be -- the man for alternative energy right and return it. Help mobilize and -- capital into the kind of energy resource is now it's moving there anyway because investors and so forth are forward thinking and they can read the tea leaves them they can read Bryant then and sort of know that -- be competitive in the future is going to mean developing these kinds of technologies but. Imagine how much faster we get there there was a concerted effort if our government was doing a better job brokering public and private partnership. If a lot of the research and development it's still have to take place to really sort of solve some of the problems they inherited these kinds of energy you know -- new energies. If that kind of research and development and actually being funded on the scale that it needs to be funded right now. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- You know industries looking for a firm price signal on carbon for a long time now. Hoping it would come along because the clarify lot of things in terms of -- going to invest your money and what kind of technology you need to what kind of building the facilities are you going to create and we have been able to give it to them yet. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- That's a good question yeah. -- -- I find myself surprised all the time -- that it doesn't ring -- refer for so many people you know I think that there's been alive. -- messaging around the war like what it would actually take you switch off fossil -- -- mean -- people I think who who still foolishly believed that -- T get up -- -- -- will mean either paying these huge energy bills on a monthly basis or you know turning the lights -- and going around with candle power. Are well honestly I mean we're already paying huge energy -- so. How much higher is that going to get. -- -- -- One of the other untapped resource -- that that we haven't really talked about his energy efficiency and just how grossly inefficient our energy uses -- the country and means that in the first resource we should be happy that's the easy resource to be happy because it doesn't necessary mean we can be conserving. So much energy using technologies and know how that are commercially available today. That we just have not implemented on a wide enough scale. On that -- -- -- literally dollar -- here sitting on the time -- and walking by them on a daily basis and we're just not picking them up and at the same time we're trying her hand that the nearest -- -- is the big climate problem we just don't have any money to deal with it it just makes it it makes very little sense and you know and then on the -- at -- -- front I think it's one of the challenges has been trying to understand from a behavioral perspective -- individuals and families and helpful and so -- why they are not taking advantage you know -- Easy what should be therefore easy for conservation type measures where it's sort of the behavioral things that stand in the way. There's financing issues right I mean we're talking about making investments and more energy efficient appliances making changes to our homes to -- heating system disks better after a high upfront cost. That they will pay back an energy savings over the lifetime of that investment. Well and also there I mean because I have talked to a number of organizations who deal just that right with energy efficiency. And you know there are so many incentives out there both in those upfront cost to help you buy that new appliance or changer heating system in your house or changer AC system -- Even you know there are organizations out there that will send you the new energy efficient light -- and the free. You just need to go to the website that and then sign up and act like remember the name right now could signals they do it is but if you look it up online they're in their place is all over the country the older that friend and so there -- ways to do it is just. People need to -- but do it. I mean that's that's part of it I mean there are some larger structural problems I mean you know I think you know creative financing will go a long way toward helping particularly small businesses and households makes some of those changes. But these shipping priority areas for our policy makers these are exactly the kind of examples where you can have will design effective public policy. And I really wanna find you know -- the Democrat or Republican who want to stand up and say that they don't support energy efficiency initiatives because. You know but it had to do so it basically say I believe -- throwing money on the sidewalk and letting people walk all over -- and ignoring those opportunities for real energy -- this is one that should not have been on energy efficiency is not a partisan issue and you know we should be documenting -- -- CL irrespective of climate change the climate change of course. They could be important. I'll be happy those energy efficiency as the potential resource as a potential emissions mitigation measure. I always go back and think about with the sounds a little silly bit. The first Superman movie at the beginning of the movie his father Joseph or Ellis standing in front of the council and explaining that hey have done all these calculations. And our son is going to crash into our planet and they'll go well were Rory nuclear your editor -- gets it turns in this political debate needs like it would -- sun's gonna crash into us. And everyone says no no no and sure enough for a day later the -- crashes into them and she sure that's a silly comic book reference but I feel like we're stuck in that. We are sort of stuck in that I mean it is physically lost sight of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is that you know our planet's climate system is changing in ways that are being you know the very uncertain that all of afraid suggest could be potentially catastrophic in terms we pass certain critical threshold that we can't even concretely identify. Even even know I mean it's catastrophic right now what do the number of hurricanes earthquakes tornadoes fires all the substance that seems to be growing exponentially every year. Right now it creates the sun is crashing into the planet so to speak and we continue to. Sort of you know pretend that this this particular about politics that this is about tequila lifestyle that the is about autonomy that this is about you know US China rivalry I mean you name -- I I if I -- I've I've heard the excuse but. The all they are as excuses for putting the blinders up to the reality which confronts us. And you know we could choose to be negative about it which is the way the week we've I think we've tried to tackle this problem -- to talk about all the reasons why we can't do it. -- all the reasons why we must do it because of all these dire consequences we've basically done and what we haven't really done a good job of just telling the story in terms of opportunity. Added if we embrace this as they challenge a similar facial challenge which it truly is and use that as inspiration. In inducement found to be more innovative to think. More about how we live with in. The limits of our natural systems in the 21 century about how we -- not only our own needs but the needs of the growing population on the planet. How we can embrace technologies develop new technologies to be more efficient. Addressed other environmental issues that hasn't always been pushed to the back burner but are no less dire pressing them they've -- then what's happening to the world oceans what's happening to biodiversity what's happening to the world for us this -- a tremendous opportunity. To address these issues and we should see this challenge of opportunity. Instead of pretending the challenge doesn't exist or just choosing to see the negative. Yeah more Meier in it politics right now so. -- sounds fairly grim is good news to report -- were having any any forward momentum that we can have some opened. Absolutely I mean. And I think eating here just because the national debate over climate change -- and can't. Or he has -- -- ended. Luck this action on the back burner for the time. -- but then in the debate about -- -- changing climate policy hasn't -- it's just moved out of the legislature and the broader policy arena and -- the bucket sort of -- -- but when you look around the country when you look at you know some very incredibly ambitious climate action plans that are being passed around the country -- I cities but metropolitan regions but -- statement. I'll -- you look at what California is going to do with the AB 32 in -- cap on carbon emissions I mean you know what happened in California I mean they are one state but they are huge and mean their economies larger than that -- -- -- countries and also. It's not insignificant it will have an impact on how the rest of the country and -- doing business as a result. These are all very positive signs. And what happened in California. Will help you know proof of concept -- for what it's similar type bill for the country could do so I think those are all very positive all of the data I've seen here recently coming out regarding the cost of solar and wind technologies. Look the other technologies I think is incredibly. Incredibly positive and just very good news. I'm on all that front I think when we look around the world. What we find -- an incredible amount of momentum building in places in the world where you wouldn't necessarily expect to find it. If you look in the developing world. China India they are taking it very big step forward toward full dealing win their own on emissions problem. And thinking very innovative -- about how they're going to meet their nations emerging energy needs. Investing in solar and particularly in China and wind technology is. We here in the -- actually kind of he had India and -- are -- to get held -- says. We'll look at the reason why we should just give up and go away and go home on the climate problem because. No matter what we do you know there's these you know writing economies that are gonna all of their emissions girl pulled to work -- emissions reductions in yet. When you actually look at their track record beginning more than we are around me. Yeah eventually we're gonna ever gonna turn around look and didn't realize that oh. We're the only people still doing in this went missing from the report we're the ones who needed change. Like India for example has a new tax on coal consumption. And they're targeting the revenues that they generate to build a green investment bank a bank it'll basically invest and sort of green new energy type infrastructure. India tried talking about taxing -- in the United States can see how far you know get it where it gets here. And South Korea the security of it. Recent fiscal stimulus package designed to create jobs was targeted toward environmentally friendly infrastructure and and other kind of you know green industry initiatives that the seven industries that China the Chinese Government has. Pulled out as priority industries that -- sort of get preferential access to government loan laden and the and that's sort of thing. I'll hold the seven industries have strong link back to a low carbon model. And China's -- the early stages of launching a pilot carbon trading program internally though. You know the you know things are happening there is momentum happening worldwide. These things are bubbling up and I think the real question at this point the United States is not whether. The rest of the world is going to actually managed to do something obesity emissions of and whether there is going to be a revolution in terms of how we produce and consume energy that is going to happen. It is happening slowly but surely the question of the United States this is what. Roller you gonna play yeah. Yeah are you gonna be the import -- think technology. I'm because at at the -- we're sort of in the position -- we may find ourselves having to import those technology. Yeah but what if we step ahead what if we develop these technologies and that becomes -- giant new industry for us in the world. Absolutely and that's that's the way we should be linked to. It's certainly use a new 2000. And -- new industry to boost our economy. Isn't exactly I mean you know private capital in this country -- need something new to invest in. We need new industries you know we've got and the technological capacity here in the United States to do this could be the global leaders. Will we don't really have a sort of the political will at this point in time and the world waits for no one's so yeah -- If we don't do it somebody else will. Then if we find ourselves too far behind on the technology curve than we end up being the EPA importers of those technologies at some point in the future and I think that's the important question. If this is the direction for innovation then where is the United States going to be in that race to the future and right now we're having lived where we're taking our time getting up to the starting line yeah. Whenever -- is we need to speed it up we sure do now let's rally people. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Absolutely we'll have to have you back a couple months -- I'm sure -- -- you know he's still even after our talking about this only hitting the tip of the iceberg. I'm also. All right that'll do it for this edition -- -- scoping Entercom communications public affairs program I've been your host -- Douglas if you have a nonprofit or public affairs organization that you would like to let others know about please email me -- match scope and entercom.com and -- start -- the -- And please put masters cup in the subject line to just get snagged -- spam filter -- go directly to the station's website click on the community link -- information there. Also you'd like to hear this program again as well as the first part of the interview please go to our podcast did you Mets are still PDX dot com where you'll find both these episodes and the last couple months worth of episodes. And please feel free to post your FaceBook your blog your MySpace you still have one. Whatever illustrate -- this information on this very important information out to as many people as possible I think you also much for listening thank you again Kristen. This is Denver metro scope.