‘Green’ greed is good

Even Cheney’s financial manager sees that clean-energy business makes sense

Chico native Eric Johnson is an alumnus of Chico State currently completing graduate work in evolutionary anthropology at Washington State. He is organizing the 2007 Northwest Progressive Conference (www.wsuprogressive.com).

There are serious concerns for our nation’s economic managers now that global warming has become an important political—rather than purely scientific—issue.

The world’s leading economic powers are invested so fully in carbon fuel infrastructures that, on the surface, it would seem to spell economic disaster to alter course as dramatically as some environmentalist proponents argue.

However, there is a growing consensus among economic leaders that the financial impacts are more likely to occur if we don’t take the warnings seriously. Just prior to the president’s State of the Union address, CEOs from 10 of the nation’s largest companies (including Alcoa, DuPont, Pacific Gas & Electric, Caterpillar, General Electric and Duke Energy) urged the president to apply mandatory federal emissions controls.

“Action is not only justified, it’s critical—greenhouse-gas emissions are rising at an unprecedented rate,” said Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E, which provides energy to more than 15 million American homes. Even Dick Cheney’s financial manager, Jeremy Grantham, sees where the energy wave is cresting.

Grantham, chairman of Boston-based GMO (which, according to FEC statements, manages at least $1.6 million of the vice president’s investments), sent a strongly worded letter to the company’s clients, including Cheney. “There is now nearly universal scientific agreement that fossil fuel use is causing a rise in global temperatures,” Grantham stated—and he warned investors that industrialized countries with better fuel efficiency have, on average, enjoyed faster economic growth over the past 50 years than the United States.

The GDP (gross domestic product) per unit of energy in Italy is 50 percent higher than in the U.S., and in Japan it’s 60 percent higher. Even China is passing us by in energy efficiency with, Grantham added, “auto fuel efficiency standards well ahead of the U.S.!”

Clean-energy policies, far from leading to economic stagnation, will likely foster innovation and emerging markets. Grantham’s bottom line is that “oil substitution, energy conservation, and related environment issues will be the biggest investment issue of at least the next several decades.”

Market opportunities are opening up for those entrepreneurs savvy enough to see what the future holds. In this way, “going green” means financial success along with environmental responsibility.