Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Economy Tanks...What Happens to Renewables?

There's been a lot of talk in the media and the blogosphere about what's going to happen with renewable energy investments and efforts to regulate carbon now that the economy has taken a dive. Basically, can we afford to still be green?

In most instances I say we can. Sure, a barrel of oil is cheaper now. But as we know, that price is volatile. Continuing towards greater energy independence from fossil fuels and towards homegrown sources of energy will only help us in the long run and continue to strengthen the rural economies that (many times) are the epicenter of these resources, like biofuels and wind power.

In an interesting twist, the Wall Street bail out bill contained provisions extending the tax credits for wind and solar power plants. These are sectors that should continue to grow if we truly want to move toward a more secure energy system. What's more, both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain support some sort of federal law regulating carbon emissions, a major source of global warming. And more than 30 states have mandates for a certain amount of their energy to come from renewable sources. So this isn't going to all disappear overnight.

But that's not to say it's all rosy, either. European nations like Italy and Poland are backpedaling on their commitments to cut carbon regulation and U.S. venture capitalist money is shrinking in some areas. While there may be real funding cutbacks in some sectors, however, policymakers must keep us on track and businesses must keep pushing the technology that can get us cleaner and greener. It's up those of us supporting clean energy policies and solutions to communicate the economic benefits of these technologies, whether they be jobs in rural areas or energy efficiency savings. Smart energy and clean technology aren't luxuries that will disappear with a tight market, but they are a way of life that we can grasp more fully if we keep our eye on the prize.

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