Eric Harrington – My Letter to President Obama – What to do?
Dear President Obama,
I just read Mr. Krugman’s very sooth letter outlining his advice to you for the urgent rebuilding of America. Most economists like Mr. Krugman seem to agree that Infrastructure is the best investment to stimulate a recovery of our economy. But I think the more important question is, what can we invest in that will make America more competitive.
Building roads and bridges may create jobs but it will not alter our competitiveness significantly. Nor will bailing out banks, although I have come to see the necessity in getting credit back into the engine of the economy.
National health care is incredibly important, but as necessary as it is to the long-term well being of our society, it will not significantly improve our ability to compete. There is only ONE infrastructure investment I can see that can create jobs AND dramatically improve our ability to compete in the Global free-market.
A couple years back, I was told by a very savvy and sought after CEO that “Green is the new bubble. Find your niche as soon as you can” His advice was truly prophetic. Mr. President, you ran your campaign on Hope, and I say to you now that I (and Thomas Friedman) strongly believe Green Technology infrastructure is our best Hope for real prosperity.
We need to seize this moment, and use it to implement the greatest overhaul in the history of the world. We need to completely changeover the US electrical infrastructure to renewable sources immediately. Not 30% by 2020, or 50% by 2050, but 80-90% by 2016.
What will this accomplish that roads and bridges, schools and health-care cannot?
First, megawatt solar projects favor the most arid, undeveloped areas of the country. So it should be easy to use only Federal lands and produce 50%-70% or more of our energy needs in Arizona and New Mexico alone. Such projects are virtually “shovel ready,” technology mature, and much of the transition could be operational in 4-6 years, with a national mobilization.. The kind of mobilization that built airplanes in the 40’s has to build Solar Collectors and to a more limited extent Windmills today.
Now granted, this may not create jobs in every town in America, but as in the great depression, populace will need to go to the work for a while.. It may be difficult, but it can be done…
What will a massive project like this accomplish? Millions of Green Jobs and Training. Major Green-tech advancements that will position us to lead the new Green Bubble. Renewable, oil-independent energy supplies and increased capacity through more widely distributed generation that will make our economy more stable, scalable, and secure. Dramatically reduced pollution and most importantly, CO2. And with such a huge investment and committment to a complete changeover, private investors will flock to invest in private renewable energy projects. The government doesn’t have to cover the whole bill, just get the ball rolling, the free market will kick it down the hill.. But there is another incredibly important benefit.
Once the infrastructure is converted, America will become substantially more attractive to countless energy intensive industries such as IC chip manufacturing, that were forced to leave or never came to the US because of our strict environmental regulations and high energy costs. Many of these industries are facing a new economic challenge in the form of international carbon taxes and caps, which will again dramatically add to their bottom line costs. By coming to America with it’s new carbon neutral grid, they could avoid that impact, and bring their jobs TO AMERICA for a change.
Transportation must also follow in the transition with a major portion of automobiles converting to pure electric, as well as Mag-Lev trains to replace much of domestic Airline travel. This conversion would literally save the US automobile industry and the millions of jobs they and their periphery industries employ, and make them leaders in the new Green World Transportation market.
Mr. Krugman has suggested that creating jobs is THE KEY to our recovery, but a new Renewable Energy Infrastructure and the millions of Green jobs it will create is the key to our FUTURE.
But how much would such a bold plan cost? Surprisingly, only slightly more than is already being discussed with current popular plans. I have estimated in earlier essays that a complete conversion of the grid would run around 2-3 trillion dollars subsidized by the government over several years, the rest being generated by a huge influx of private capital that such a rapidly growing industry would attract. Sounds huge I know, but it is doable, and it is the only massive Infrastructure investment that can really alter our ability to compete in the 21st century Global economy.
Please Mr. President, consider this idea carefully, bravely, wisely… This is a tremendous opportunity, we cannot afford to miss.
Sincerely and with great respect,