Climate change

President Obama and 150+ other world leaders met in Paris to initiate talks on climate change. Why? Because the world’s leaders are paying attention to the scientific community – and doing what leaders do, which is to ensure the safety of their citizens. The Republicans presidential candidates are cut from a different cloth. They find the nearest Fox camera to snigger, like grade school kids, at the President’s warning that climate change is a bigger threat to American security than terrorism.

climateXi Jinping and Vladimir Putin came to Paris to put their imprimatur on the talks. China has for years been reckless with its environment. And Russia has no reputation for ecological stewardship. But both realise that a warming planet is disastrous. And that there is a significant silver lining – there is gold in them thar hills. Billions in profits await those who dare to adopt new energy technology.

Where would a young Warren Buffet invest in the energy sector? Natural gas is pricing coal out of the market. Petroleum is increasingly more expensive to extract. Renewables are more expensive than fossil fuels. But the long-game player knows that the big bucks will be made in renewables. Technology history shows that the cost of alternative energy will decline – precipitously.

tvTake TVs, cell phones, and personal computers. In 1950, television state-of-the-art was the Philco model 1403. This little beauty came with a 12-inch screen and cost $1,964 in today’s dollars.

The first commercially available cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (aka the ‘brick’) cost $3,995 in 1983. By 1996, the flip phone had been introduced with the Motorola StarTAC at $1,000.

The first personal computer designed for the home user, the Apple II. launched in 1977 for $1,298 (with 4 kB of RAM) – $5,094 in 2015 dollars. For 48kB of RAM, you had to shell out $2,638 (2015 $10,353).

Unsurprisingly the cost of solar-generated electricity has declined just as precipitously. And wind power is yet cheaper.

Conservatives by their nature are unadventurous. They cling to the old ways. They have little imagination. America was built by people who did what hadn’t been done before. And it was also built by visionary politicians in public/private partnerships. In 1817, NY Governor DeWitt Clinton secured $7 million in state financing to build the Erie Canal – which cut freight rates by 95%, opened the Midwest to the Atlantic and fostered the development of Western NY.

Five Pacific Railroad Acts (1862-66) mandated the purchase of land for a transcontinental railroad and issued bonds for its financing.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 allotted $25 billion ($219 billion – 2015) to build 41,000 miles of intrastate highway.

Public money has also inspired private innovation. The Space Program spun off a plethora of consumer products. And the military/academic complex gave us the internet.

Conservative sneered at Obama’s plans to develop alternate energy, However, the government has long supported energy. The Manhattan Project created the nuclear industry. The TVA wired much of America. The Hoover Dam brought electricity to 1.3 million people in the West. Even today, fossil fuel subsidies distort the energy market.

The debate between climate change believers and skeptics is less no over whether it exists but over how dire it is – or even if it will have any adverse effects at all. What the ‘do nothing’ crowd should realise is that crisis or not there are profits to be made. Do we want to let China, Germany and others benefit while we leave money on the table?

 

 

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