The economic quandary of energy denial

Like a storm-tossed sailor too fearful to swim for a distant shore while his lifeboat sinks, America risks economic shipwreck by clinging to a dead-end energy paradigm.

Americans want more jobs, greater spending power, and financial security without inconvenience or short-term change. In short, we’re totally delusional.

  • Lay aside the fact that easily accessible oil is a vanishing resource.
  • Forget for a moment the environmental havoc we wreak by driving atmospheric carbon ever higher through fossil fuel usage.
  • Ignore the implications of an American economy kept afloat by three wage-earners for every retiree or unemployed adult—a ratio experts project to drop to two-to-one in thirty years.
  • Don’t give a thought to runaway medical costs, to the increasing prevalence of disease, obesity and disability linked to lifestyle and the environment, to fossil fuel energy costs fated to skyrocket due to  high-tech extraction requirements, or to a world population that’s expected to swell by fifty percent in forty years.

Instead consider China.

According to a report released today by the U.S. Energy Department (and reported by the NY Times), ‘The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range of green products — from compact fluorescent light bulbs to electric cars to giant wind turbines.’

China currently produces over ninety-six percent of key “rare earth” minerals vital to the above green technologies. Moreover, this emerging economic giant understands the value of its monopoly as China plans to hike export taxes on rare earth minerals while tightening restrictions on their commercial availability.

To fully grasp this situation, including its potentials and dangers, read U.S. called vulnerable to rare earth shortages by Keith Bradsher of the New York Times. Once you read it, consider these points:

  • Less than a decade after the Manhattan Project raced Hitler to develop an atomic bomb, America’s “space race” with the Soviets, which prioritized technology and science in schools across the nation, maintained the balance of nuclear power and may have averted war.
  • For years, the Chinese have committed thousands of their best engineers and scientists to develop green technologies through rare earth usage whereas only dozens of American experts currently ply these fields.
  • China’s population, low labor costs, and abundant natural resources ensure its continued economic growth for decades.
  • China’s resolve to spearhead sustainable technologies means this manufacturing colossus should wield ever-greater economic power as its energy overhead shrinks. Meanwhile, the U.S. stands to  drown in a rising sea of fossil fuel costs.
  • Nations (and their industries) that escape the yoke of fossil fuel usage by riding the clean energy bandwagon stand to remain competitive globally by having the funds to match competitor investments in R&D, advertising, capital improvements, etc., rather than wasting resources on non-renewable power that can only grow more expensive.

Imagine if Hitler had developed an atomic bomb along with a rocket able to reach New York. Imagine how the world might have suffered if either side had gained nuclear supremacy in the Cold War. Regarding America’s economy, the stakes concerning her energy course are no less urgent or grim.

Should America continue to cling to fossil fuels while China forges ahead to produce clean energy at a future costs a fraction of American oil or coal—keeping in mind the ripple effects cheap energy would have throughout affected economies—what will happen to the value of the dollar? Like it or not, this inconvenient ‘change’  will occur. In fact, it’s already taking place according to the U.S. Energy Department.

While Americans wring their hands and argue whether climatic change is real and whether it’s caused by human pollution, other nations—led by China—are leaving us behind. Either America commits its human and material resources to join the “energy race” immediately, or we’ll fall by the economic wayside.

##

Twice a surrogate ‘stem cells’ spokesperson for the GW Bush White House, J. Perry Kelly ended his association with the political right over its distortion of global warming for political and short-sighted economic profit.

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~ by jperrykelly on December 15, 2010.

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