Quick Take on Roger Pielke, Jr.’s Talk in Portland

Roger Pielke, Jr. opened the 2011 Illahee Lectures on Thursday 3 February.

We’ll start with the conclusion, and work backward from there:

We need to invest something like $50 to $100 billion PER YEAR in energy innovation.

“We” means the U.S. federal government, and other nations (China’s already pulling ahead).

States and private enterprise have a role, but bottom line, their capacity just isn’t up to the scale of what we need.

What we need: the equivalent of one nuclear power plant of energy, built every day for the next 50 years (convert to wind, solar, biofuels and “negawatts” as you wish).

How we might fund this: a modest carbon tax, less than a buck a day.

Why we need to do this: no matter what CO2 limit you buy into, 350, 450, or 550 ppm, and no matter how you see the world economy growing – or not – we need new sources of clean energy to come on line much faster than we’re currently doing it.

The assumptions:

The Long Emergency – or the end of growth – is unlikely because, well we’re not sure why, but at any rate the end of growth would not be much fun, especially for the global poor.

The rest of the world wants what we have, and they’re not buying into “slow growth.”

You can’t get elected dog-catcher anywhere but Boulder and Santa Cruz without being pro-growth.

People will pay for clean energy, and pay to reduce CO2, but there’s a limit to what they’ll pay.

What we’re doing right now – setting CO2 goals, international meetings, cap and trade, carbon offsets, making fossil fuels expensive – isn’t working.

More to come.

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