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Mr. President, You Can’t Save the Economy and Save the Planet

Obama must choose between increasing economic activity which will increase emissions, or decreasing CO2 by keeping the economy stagnant.

by
Leon de Winter

Bio

December 20, 2009 - 12:08 am
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There is a biting paradox at the heart of two of President Obama’s urgent problems: the economic crisis and the state of the climate, which, as many people believe, is about to erase human existence on the planet.

The United States has a consumer-driven economy. In other words, the present unemployment of 10% (but in reality about 17%) can only be decreased by increased consumption of consumer goods. A “green economy” is beyond our present technological capabilities, so the unavoidable consequence of increased consumption is a rise in the “carbon footprint” of the American citizen.

At present, nobody knows how to drastically reduce our carbonfoot print while at the same time drastically increasing the consumption and production of goods and services. The transformation from a fossil fuel burning society to a green society will take many decades. There are still many states that produce electricity by burning coal. Other states like California burn a lot of natural gas in electricity production. This is cleaner, but still, natural gas is a fossil fuel which releases CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and reactive hydrocarbons. Clean fossil fuels don’t exist.

What about “alternative” energy?

A report in Holland about the use of modern windmills, released last week, concludes that “building windmills adds to a higher use of fossil fuels and a higher release of the greenhouse gas CO2.” The construction and maintenance of windmills demand high volumes of energy, and when a lack of winds forces the mills to inactivity, ineffective gas turbines (other types of turbines cannot be fired up on short notice) have to fulfill the demand of electricity.

When one is convinced that climate change is a threat to life on earth, one solution remains. Under federal guidelines, we must maintain or increase unemployment and redistribute available labor. Part-time jobs will be the trend of the near future. Until real clean energy sources like cold fusion are available, accumulation of wealth by definition increases the release of CO2 — but cold fusion is still science fiction. So if climate change needs to be stopped, it is of the utmost importance to give up the essence of capitalism: the ambition to grow and make a profit. An economic crisis and high unemployment are nothing but a blessing in disguise.

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