Earlier this week, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, Dan Weiss, went on CNBC to discuss “the economic benefits of going green” as it relates to the energy bill currently in Congress. Weiss, a strong advocate of the clean energy provisions, went head to head with Max Schultz of the Manhattan Institute, whose sole platform was costs.
The unjustifiably controversial renewable portfolio standard was the heart of the debate. As Weiss pointed out, half of the states in the union have already adopted their own renewable energy standard. Yet Schultz claimed a nationwide standard would be unachievable, mainly due to economics.
But revolutionizing our economy into one that is low-carbon does not have to be expensive. As CAP notes in its major report “Capturing the Energy Opportunity” (PDF), building the infrastructure to rely on renewable electricity resources can generate new jobs and industry work and eventually lower consumer prices. By 2020, as Weiss notes, a renewable portfolio standard is expected to save consumers money while generating jobs.
Plus, if a renewable portfolio standard were accompanied by a massive push toward energy efficiency, consumers would directly save on their utility bills. Like California illustrates today, even with more expensive prices per kilowatt hour, policies promoting efficiency could slow demand and therefore still save money.
Certainly businesses won’t want to change their ways if the old way is the most profitable. That’s why policy should decouple profits from sales so that utilities make efficiency investments, and act in everyone’s best interest.
When Schultz was asked directly if going green would be bad for the economy, he couldn’t answer yes (because it’s not). He stuttered through his answer and repeated that this bill’s provisions would be expensive. He’s a one-trick pony.
In the long run, and even in the short-term, a comprehensive energy package that takes into consideration the threat we face from climate change is the healthiest choice for our future.