Many pundits have compared 1994's political climate to this year's: A new, young Democrat in the Whitehouse, poor economic conditions leading to a major shift in control of congress during mid-term elections, little hope in sight for improvement at that point. What we now know is that the internet and computer industries exploded causing a boom that resulted in a record 25,000,000 jobs being created under President Clinton. (And before you say anything yes, Al Gore, as the sponsor of the bill that funded the commercialization of the Internet, really did have a lot to do with that. Bullshit media memes and misquotes be damned.)
The situation we face now really is similar. And, just like in 1994 there's a technology boom coming. This time, though, it's green tech: alternative energy, conservation, efficiency improvements, solar, wind, electric cars, insulation, geothermal, batteries, cogeneration and a lot more. The Chinese and Indian governments see this green wave coming and they're pouring billions of [INSERT CURRENCY HERE] into it because they know it's the economic driver of at least the next decade if not the next century. We're not. We're falling behind. FAST.
Whether or not you believe that humans are responsible for global warming or even if you doubt global warming entirely green tech is still a sure thing. Natural resources are limited so reducing consumption preserves them for everyone. Reducing pollution saves lives and saves money. Much of our current energy comes from countries that, even if they don't hate us, certainly aren't our best friends and don't share our beliefs in things like religious freedom, gender equality, human rights, etc. There's no good reason *not* to change. None. Sure, some business will make less profit but overall it will be a massive boost to our economy if we commit.
But we're not doing much about it. Ok, to there are a few research programs and a bunch of new start-up companies but it's nothing like the early 90's where every other garage had a high-tech company growing out of it. And this time we're not the ones driving the train. Hell, we're barely holding on to the railing of the caboose. Like the research that led to the Internet this kind of R&D requires a government seed. Certainly it needs to balance the massive subsidies and give-aways to our existing energy industry to truly level the playing field. Or we could repeal those subsidies.
I'll wait while you finish the hysterics......
Over the next 10-20 years our energy sources will at least start to shift from fossil fuels to renewables and other cleaner technology. If we don't act we'll just shift our dollars from the middle east to Asia, leaving us in a similar hole to the one we're in now. Saudi Arabia and China have a lot more in common with each other than they do with us. Clearly it would be better to keep that money here and, in fact, to attract it from the rest of the planet as happened with the dotcom explosion. But it takes investment, commitment and vision. Do we have it as a country? Do our leaders have it?
I wish that were an absurd question. Sadly it's not.