Record heat waves, melting glaciers, epic droughts – – the climate is changing faster than we once thought possible, which means our response will have to be much more creative and comprehensive than we may have imagined. Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to suggest slashing greenhouse gases in half by 2020, but what if we have to do it? Does the technology exist? Is there enough money and political will power on earth to commercialize those technologies fast enough?
I’ll let you in on two secrets that could be very profitable for smart entrepreneurs and investors. We could end our fossil fuel addiction within 20 years – – and make a lot of money in the process – – with two basic strategies.
First, no matter what we use for energy, we can double its productivity in less than a decade. The average American uses about 12,000 kilowatts of electricity per person per year. The average Californian uses just over half of that. If you’ve been in the Golden State lately, you know that efficiency is not because we have scrapped our big screen TVs, Jacuzzi tubs, or air conditioners in the desert. It’s because state regulators spent the last few years setting appliance and building efficiency standards and rewarding utilities for energy conservation programs. Every state could do the same.
Second, cutting greenhouse gases is a matter of harnessing renewable energy, like solar and wind, instead of burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. There’s enough energy in the sunlight that falls on the earth every hour to power all human energy needs for a year. Add wind, biomass, tidal flows, and other renewables – – clearly we have the clean sources of energy to end our fossil fuel addiction and to shut off the planetary crock pot we’ve created. We can also convert that clean energy into transportation fuels like waste-to-ethanol and hydrogen.
So how do we turn down the global thermostat and turn up the profits? I’d like to hear your ideas for where the game-changing innovations and killer aps will come from that can accomplish both. Next week, I’ll give you my top five.