A Case for Renewable Green Energy

October 5, 2011

1:30 pm

There are so many reasons why America needs to break the shackles of big oil interests and move to renewable green energy. It isn’t just about saving the environment, and it’s not about wordsmithing and morphing global warming to the more energy company-friendly term climate change. It’s about retooling an economy and starting the next revolution that fuels our next cycle of prosperity.

Real economic change and wealth are based on economic revolutions like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. We are currently on the last legs of the Information Technology revolution that has driven our economic prosperity since the 1970s. When you look around now, you can clearly see that the Information Technology revolution has petered out. Change is only slightly incremental. We’ve eeked out 80% and 90% performance enhancements from new technology to the point where squeezing the last 10% in value is as difficult, painful, slow and unproductive as squeezing water out of a wash cloth that has been twisted a thousand times.

Economic booms stem from new, truly disruptive technologies. In computing, there was a day when IBM was the largest capitalized company in the world based on their expertise in mainframe computing. Threatened by new entrants like 16-bit, multi-tasking, and networked micro-computers from Convergent Technology and Unix-based Fortune Systems, IBM conspired with Intel and a startup called Microsoft to create a single-tasking, barely-functional, 8-bit, stand-alone personal computer. Based on IBM’s dominant market position, the PC became the industry micro-computer standard. IBM and Intel crushed the nascent threats and put computing back 15 years.

For a time, IBM successfully stemmed a tide – that would eventually overtake them – as they ceded their computing crown to partner-turned-rival Microsoft in the late 1980s. Yet IBM’s attempts to stem the tide of progress pales to that of Big Oil using Big Government and Big Media to smother thee renewable green energy industry.

Forget direct subsidies and tax breaks to big oil. They are puny when you compare them to the soft, non-direct subsidies that hide the true cost of big oil. The size of our armed forces, the fronts on which they operate, and the blood-and-treasure spent to protect our oil pipelines are all non-calculated costs of Big Oil. There is also the damaging impact on the environment and the ecological damage and cost to commerce and fisheries caused by the Horizon disaster in the Gulf and the lasting effects of the Valdez oil spill in Alaska. If the true cost of oil was added to each barrel, I do not want to know what we would be paying at the pumps.

If gasoline cost $20 per gallon, what would you pay for one of those foot-powered Flintstone’s cars? If gasoline prices were in line with their true cost, then safer, smaller, and modular nuclear power, solar, wind and renewable agricultural fuel technology would suddenly become economically viable. The smartest minds would focus on perfecting the technologies, thus creating employment opportunities, and the rapid price/performance improvements that take place in mass markets would follow the path of Moore’s Law. America would experience the kind of economic boom consistent with all prior economic revolutions.

Yes, there would be short-term pain associated with the higher cost of fuel. Those short-term disadvantages would be outweighed by the long term advantages, which include:

1. The creation of a new wealth-creating engine
2. Reduction in carbon emissions
3. A drop in oil prices
4. Loss of funding for terrorism groups backed by oil profits

The technology has been around for years. Backyard inventors were building chicken poop-powered cars 30 years ago. Yet Big Oil, the loser if this economic boom occurs, own our politicians and have too much to lose. Imagine the fate of the car if the buggy whip manufacturers had the foresight and political influence of Big Oil. We’d still be riding horses and buying buggy whips.

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Glen Hellman (@glehel), is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and works for venture capitalists as a turn-around specialist. He is the Chief Entrepreneureator at Driven Forward LLC, frequently muses on his blog, Forward Thinking, and works with entrepreneurs to help them figure out what to do and get them to do it.

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