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Questions and Answers

Q: The Secure Green Future ballot question is asking for an 80% cut in greenhouse gasses in 12 years (by 2020) while most presidential candidates and legislators in Congress are promising to reach such goals only by mid- century. What’s wrong with the more leisurely pace?

A: There is a certain political comfort that comes from not offending well-connected lobbyists and putting off decisive action until some other administration takes office. But there comes a time when we must act on the scientific findings to avoid a clear and present danger. The longer we wait, the more likely it is that the planet will pass a crucial tipping point, and that the slide toward catastrophe will be irreversible. Today, we can use our resources build a secure future. Tomorrow, the resources required will soar beyond our means, and our wealth will be sucked into disaster relief. We simply can’t afford to let major cuts in greenhouse gases wait for the future. We need to take decisive action now.

Q: Why should we stop giving tax incentives to energy-intensive projects?

A: Because when we build projects that consume excessive amounts of energy, we are just digging ourselves deeper in to the hole of oil addiction. Every such project means that we will have to work harder to save our climate. Taxpayers should not be asked to fund the destruction of their future.

Q: What energy intensive projects should we stop encouraging?

A: Among projects and activities that should be questioned are “destination” casinos to lure drivers from other states, inefficient housing, coal gasification plants, LNG facilities, expanded highways that encourage driving, office parks without transit, sprawl development, big-box development, airport expansion, ethanol mandates, and industrial agriculture.

Q: Why should we be encouraging locally-owned green businesses and cooperatives?

A: Because such businesses circulate money within a community and create more jobs per dollar spent. Green jobs are ideal for creating locally-owned businesses and providing sustainable employment. As transportation costs rise, we must build strong local economies that are not so dependent on shipping. Furthermore, when our economic fate is in our own hands, rather than being dictated to us by distant boards of directors, we have true economic security and can decide our own fate in a democratic way. Most of the “economic stimulus” spending of recent years has been targeted to big, wealthy corporations from outside the state. It’s time to start taking care of the local economic engine that is vital to our future.

Q: Is there a danger that you’re moving too fast?

A: No. Every dollar we spend will repay itself and more. Every year that we advance the stabilization of the climate will save lives. We cannot move too fast. The danger comes from trying to keep business as usual going for a few more years.

Q: Is it technically and economically possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2020?

A: Absolutely. It doesn’t require new technology, although we welcome any such advances. It doesn’t require finding great wealth, because what we are proposing will save enough money to pay for itself. All it requires is the political will to take the necessary actions.

Q: Don’t we have other important priorities?

A: Indeed we do. But those priorities are unlikely to be addressed effectively if we don’t solve the climate crisis. Solving the climate crisis will create jobs, reduce health care costs, and make our nation more secure. We need to address all our national priorities – but in doing so we can’t defer addressing climate change.

Q: What kind of things would we have to do to achieve an 80% reduction in GHG emissions?

A: We have to choose to transform the way we obtain and use energy. We need to raise energy efficiency in transportation, housing, manufacturing, and personal use. We need to implement full recycling of materials (since recycling requires much less energy than manufacturing from virgin materials). And we have to retire fossil-fuel based energy production and turn to renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar power, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy. Electricity will play a more central role in the energy economy of the future, and combustion will fade away. In addition, we have to stop deforestation and restore natural areas that can sequester carbon.

Q: Transportation is considered to be one of the more difficult sectors in which to reduce CO2 emissions. Can we get an 80% reduction in that sector?

A: Absolutely. In Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester Brown proposes one way to address transportation. First, we build a national network of 1.5 million wind turbines to generate clean electricity. Simultaneously, we replace our gasoline-dependent automobiles with efficient plug-in hybrid vehicles that run on electricity. At this point, our automobiles are running mostly on wind power and fuel use for automobiles has been reduced by over 90%. We could go even further by encouraging car pooling, telecommuting, better trip planning, use of public transportation, etc. You get the idea. We can clearly get to 80% reduction – its just a question of deciding to do it.

Q: Do you have a complete plan worked out for everything?

A: No. Although we have an abundance of ideas, it would not be appropriate at this time to try to specify every detail of a new energy policy. We need to build consensus through an open and democratic planning process in which everyone has a voice. The SGF question merely specifies the targets to be achieved as we make our choices of which mix of techniques to employ.

Q: But wouldn’t it be expensive to do all this?

A: Lester Brown estimates that the spending required for his Plan B approach would amount to only one-sixth of what we are currently spending on the military. It would take about 3 per cent of the GNP. Furthermore, the cost savings we achieve from breaking our oil addition should more than pay for the outlays. We should think of it as a wise investment, not as an expenditure. On an individual level, it is estimated that using wind-powered plug-in hybrid automobiles would be equivalent to buying gasoline at $1 per gallon. Think about it. The question is not whether we can afford the Secure Green Future. The question is how we could be so crazy as to think we can afford the enormous costs of remaining addicted to oil.

Q: Where did you get the $1 per gallon equivalent gasoline price for plug-in electric hybrid vehicles?

A: In Plan B, Lester Brown states that driving wind-powered plug-in hybrid vehicles would be equivalent to driving conventional cars with “less than $1 per gallon gasoline.” [1] This statement can be checked using figures provided by the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers in their 2007 position statement on plug-in electric hybrid vehicles [2]. This statement cites a propulsive efficiency for PHEV’s of 17.7 KWh per 100 miles. If electricity costs 19 cents/Kwh (a high rate similar to that prevailing in New England), then it would take $3.36 of electricity to go 100 miles. The corporate average fuel economy for gasoline automobiles is 27.5 mpg. [3] At this mileage, an auto would burn 3.64 gallons in traveling 100 miles. Thus, the PHEV cost is equivalent to paying $3.36/3.33 = $1.00 per gallon of gasoline.

[1] Brown, Lester, “Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization”, Norton, 2008

[2] “Position Statement: Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles”, IEEE-USA Board of Directors, 15 June 2007 [www.ieeeusa.org/policy/positions/phev0607.pdf]

[3] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, [www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CARS/rules/CAFE/overview.htm]

Q: If this is such a good idea, can’t we just assume that our political leaders will do it?

A: History clearly shows that we can’t assume that needed changes will occur just because they are good for the public. There are armies of lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries in Washington. Most politicians depend on private donations from business interests invested in the fossil fuel economy. Energy bills are being crafted by self- interested industries, not by objective scientists and economists. Critically needed solutions are being kept off the table. Getting real solutions enacted will require strong and principled voices from ordinary people across the country. It is up to us to rescue public policy, and that is why we need to speak up for a Secure Green Future.


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