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

Economics and the Environment - Part 2

Aug 17, 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 to -- just go a series of interviews with people of interest in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington I'm your host -- Douglas I am about to continue. And you my conversation with -- -- in the director of the economics for equity and the environment network or. PDX dot com and download the first part of the interview here it's quite fascinated -- -- -- pick up where we left off but for those joining us just now -- Give people a little bit of background on what exactly. Sure well I'm the 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 that tool -- of economists to actually support environmental protection -- it and support it which and 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 -- But that's based register people joining us we'll keep that's a brief have you been following the whole time. But with the science of climate change growing uncertainty -- one point it was kind of we think this is happening but now we're pretty sure this is happening -- -- we're having some pretty major signs of it up around the world and you know on the even just in this country. Has certainly in this area we're lucky in that. Basically it's equated to gloomy Summers which is -- you know certainly better than a hurricane or tornado knocked her house down her fires a reporter also -- world is dealing with but with that being sold 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 a lot of reasons of course there's there's the usual sort of you know entrenched interest rate we're up against. Some strong lobbying power of effort and money associated with these people oil and gas and and and coal lobby. But don't -- behemoth that existed before and I managed to get you know are we went after the big tobacco companies and finally we've sort of now have a country that's moving away from cigarette smoking. As an amazing just like in the last ten years Mac -- NASCAR you know. Sort of it can be done so I mean I don't wanna I don't wanna give them too much credit for having reported on efforts thus far I think he -- -- More fundamental I mean it's there at the challenge. And of course you know it seemed like any piece of 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 the one major issue of course is that the science of climate change which Eddie's head is you know it's uncertain at this point in time that it hasn't really translated. Com for people into dollar impact. That I think there is still you know climate change -- cast as an environmental issue and I think some people still largely see it as an environmental issues of mountain. And not only that but a political issue to be handed him about a became one sides called arms to shoot. And the other side saying no because that's what they do occur you know instead of actually looking at what was being said. Right and as an environmental economist -- IE you know I can see the economics of normal every environmental issue buddies 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 so 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 Christmas climate change as well but it's an environmental issue yell we believe the science course Smart people were well -- people we believe the client. But it's still an environmental issue -- they still don't really fully understand I think a lot of people is what this is going to mean to the quality of their life. On the quality of -- -- and livelihoods of their children. What it'll mean for people's community at their regions how will be changed how we have to adapt and how we have to do business differently. I don't think people fully understand what those potential ramifications are and in fairness. 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 if I made it sort of share earnings of an anecdote. I was it took about two or three days ago before the sun came out of. -- -- it's. Recent appearance he got everything we had visited about three days ago I was reading home on the bus from work and a bunch of people on the -- were complaining and we are all prone to do in the heartland 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 to -- Spring in terms of political and really cold and really clarity and really wet. And after all people who you know they're not they're gardens 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. And two years that this sort of whether I mean if if this 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 quite the thing is going to change that your medically how are -- going to grow food. Well we're not ignoring everything Wayne didn't think places 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 some food supplies worldwide. Are extremely dire Aaron and thinking with fresh water supplies -- 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 in the infrastructure to to adapt nearly as readily as soon as we may have here. And I think until people start to understand what these -- terrorist impact it may mean and how fundamental they are. Do it everyday life. Then it can still remains an environmental issue -- about polar bears and you may be it's about flooding in some low lying island nation somewhere right. And that's about as much of the impact and because 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's sort of speak to the the lack of resilience you know that is that this. Inherent to our secure energy and food system at the moment right the fact that he is a fossil fuel dependent right course for fossil -- is dependent on foreign oil supplies that are increasingly unstable and un reliable -- if anybody wanted a reason to sort of thinking about how can we -- harmonize their food system and and change our transportation systems and our energy systems to be less fossil fuel and bill. Local or homegrown energy seems a lot more appealing when -- look at these. Kind of instability that we're -- we're grappling with right now and then threatened to basically keep us mired in any inning 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 -- 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 why that says skepticism when it seems like. You know it is certainly right now what becomes the way it is. Helping things out and offering more jobs seems like that would be a huge boon. Right I think it's a couple of things happening on the one hand pitcher really is to scaled the technologies that we need to transform our 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 -- takes a certain amount of time and an awful take of getting the technology up to a particular size and scale 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. -- for both wind and solar and -- a suite of other potential energy sources on the recent years so their costs are coming down becoming increasingly competitive. Irina gets back -- 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 -- be along shortly. Right and the truth is of course that if it if we have the right medicine centers and -- to be developed a lot more quickly I mean you know what is plea deal we can think what are the administer capital can be displayed in alternative energies right we're getting in 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 a demand for alternative energy right to 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 -- and -- and sort of know that could be competitive in the future is going to mean developing these kinds of technologies but. Imagine how much faster we get there if there was a concerted effort. If our government was doing a better job brokering public and private partnerships. If a lot of the research and development it's still have to take place to really sort of solve some of the problems inherent in 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. Where would -- be in the process -- be further -- -- likely we'd be you know closer to where some of our European counterparts are we would be closer to where China and India are rapidly getting -- and I think that's part of -- I mean there's a timing issue but then I think more fundamentally the problem is that people don't I don't think we have a whole lot of people anymore in the country -- the public -- playing any kind of positive -- and job creation -- you know we make it all have to come from the private sector and -- the private sector is basically telling -- we'd be happy to invest in these technologies -- there -- the right medicine center infrastructure to -- -- You know industries looking for a firm price signal on carbon for a long time now. Hoping it would come along because the clarify a lot of things in terms of how are you going to invest your money and what kind of technology is there any it will kind of building the facilities -- -- going to create and we have been able to get a cabana. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- That's a good question yeah. -- -- I I find myself surprised all the time cute that it doesn't -- -- her for so many people you know I think that they're that alive. -- messaging around -- what it would actually take you switch off fossil -- -- -- -- -- people I think who who still foolishly believed that QG get off fossil fuels will mean either paying -- huge energy bills on a monthly basis or you know turning the lights off and going around -- candle power. Well honestly I mean we're already paying huge energy bills so. How much higher is that going to get. -- -- -- One of the other untapped resource is that that we haven't really talked about the energy efficiency and just tell grossly inefficient our energy uses across the country and mean that is the first resource we should be happy that the easy resource to be happy because it doesn't necessarily mean we can be conserving so much energy using technologies and know how that are commercially available today. That we just had not implemented on a wide enough scale. On that liberals -- literally dollar bills you're 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 returning her hands up in the air and saying look she's just. The big climate problem we just don't have any money to deal with it it just makes. -- it makes very little sense and you know and again on the energy official. Easy what should be therefore easy sort of conservation type measures we're 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 started heating system is Petr both have high upfront cost. That they will pay back energy savings over the lifetime of that investment. Well and also there I mean because they have talked to a number of organizations -- 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 lightbulbs -- to free. You just need to go to the website and then sign up -- night. -- remember the name right now could signals they do it is but if you look at up online their their places all over the country the -- that -- so there are ways to do it is just. People need to just -- do it. -- and that 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 along way towards helping particularly small businesses and households make 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 whether the Democrat or Republican who wants 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 savings this is one that should not have been on energy efficiency is not a partisan issue and you know we should be documenting these patients see you know irrespective of climate change the climate change of course. They could be important. Of -- those energy efficiency as as the potential resource as a potential emissions mitigation measure. I was go back and think about with the sounds a little silly but. The first Superman movie at the beginning of the movie his father Doral is standing in front of the council in explaining that hey have done all these calculations. And our son is going to crash into our planet and -- -- go well were Rory nuclear your editor -- gets it turns in this political debate needs like it whatever we sun's gonna crash into us. And everyone says no no no and sure enough 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 that played 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 sits at 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 this is about autonomy that this is about you know US China rivalry I mean you name -- I I if I have I have I heard the excuse but it's. -- all they are -- excuses for putting the blinders up to the reality which confronts us. And you know we -- used to be negative about it which is the way that week we've I think -- tried to tackle this problem right to talk about all the reasons why we can't do it. We're 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. That is if we embrace this as they challenge of civilization a challenge which it truly is and use -- as inspiration. In inducement found to be more innovative to think. More about. How old we live with end. 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 -- no less -- pressing them they've never been what's happening to the world -- what's happening to biodiversity what's happening to the world's -- -- there's a tremendous opportunity. To address these issues and we should see this challenge -- opportunity. Instead of pretending the challenge doesn't exist or just choosing to -- the negative. Yeah more -- and it politics right now so. -- sounds fairly Graham -- is there any good news to report I -- really having any any forward momentum that we can have some opened. Absolutely I mean and I think eating you just because the national debate over climate change and -- Or he has seemed to -- -- luck this -- The back burner that time. Yeah but yeah I -- the debate about kinda changing climate policy hasn't -- it's just moved out of the legislature and the broader policy arena and -- the -- sort of -- -- -- 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 by the metropolitan region -- quite state. When you look at what California is going to do with it AB 32 in its cap on carbon emissions I mean you know what happened in California means they are one state but they are huge -- -- -- economy is larger than that -- -- countries and also. It's not insignificant it will have an impact on how the rest of the country and they're doing business as a result. So these are all very positive signs. And what happened in California. Will help you know proof of concept for for what it's similar type built 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. As well as other technologies I think is incredibly hard incredibly positive and just very good news. I'm I'm all that front I think when we look around the world. What we find -- an incredible amount of momentum building in place to the world where you wouldn't necessarily expect to find it. If you look at the developing world. China India. They are taking it very big step forward toward people. Dealing win their own on emissions problem. And thinking very innovate only about how they're going to meet there nations emerging energy needs. Investing in solar and I and particularly in China and wind technology is. We here in the potentially -- he had India and China are sure to get held up as. Well were there other reasons 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 -- these you know rising economies that are gonna all of their emissions girl -- to work -- emissions reductions in yet. When you actually look at their track record beginning more than we are round has. 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 -- -- think what we're we're the ones who needed change. Like India for example has the new tax on coal consumption. And they're targeting the revenues they generate to build a green investment bank a bank it'll basically invest in sort of green new energy type infrastructure. India -- talking about taxing coal in the United States can see how far you know it gets it where it gets here. And South Korea had the majority 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 Chinese Government has. Pulled out as priority industries that -- sort of get preferential access to government loans and ten and that sort of thing. I'll hold the seven industries -- strong link back to a low carbon model. And -- is -- the early stages of launching a pilot carbon trading program internally -- 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. And whether there is going to be a revolution in terms of how we produce and consume energy that is going to happen. It isn't happening slowly but surely the question of the United States this is what roller you. The play yeah. Yeah are you gonna be the import I think technology. I'm because at at the -- we're sort of in the tradition where we may find ourselves having to import those tech. -- already have a 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 a new industry to boost our economy. Exactly I mean you know private capital this country need something new to invest in. We need new industries you know we've gotten in the technological capacity here in the United States to do this could be the global leaders. What we don't really have a sort of the political will at this point in time. And the world waits for no -- so you know it's. If we don't do it somebody else will. Then if we find -- -- -- far behind on the technology curve than we end up being BD 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. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Absolutely we'll have to have you back a couple months and I'm sure war -- you know he's still even after our talking about this only hitting the tip of the iceberg. I am also. All right that'll do it for this edition matches scoping Entercom communications public affairs program I've been your host Ted Douglas if -- nonprofit or public affairs organization that you would like to let others know about please email me and -- your scope and entercom.com. And intercom start to the need at least put mattress up in the subject line to just get snagged by my spam filter -- go directly to the station's website click on the community link -- information there. Also it's like you're this program again as well as the first part of the interview please go to our podcast did you Mets are still PBX dot com. We'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 we still have one. Whatever illustrate get this information on this very important information out to as many people as possible I think you all so much for listening to do again Kristen. This is Denver mattress --