Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The U.S. Falls Further Behind in Progressive Policies for a Sustainable Future

While the U.S. is bogged down in diverting resources to fighting three wars, other nations are investing in innovative solutions to global problems and creating new industries—and jobs.

As gas prices have risen as part of growing resource scarcity,  the American public has responded by clamoring for reducing gasoline prices, specifically by reducing already meager gasoline taxes (that provide funding for repairing or replacing crumbling roads and bridges).  Meanwhile, other countries have adjusted differently—or are well underway in doing so—to the realities of resource scarcity.  Europe and Scandinavia impose high taxes on energy and are far ahead of the U.S. in renewable fuel development.  Those regions are often derided in the U.S. as being inefficient, “socialistic” nations, yet they have had superior economic output per capita compared to the U.S.   It is not just advanced nations that are seeing the future and seizing opportunities for progress.  Besides the huge investments that China has made in solar and wind energy, Brazil has a growing economy that has adapted to its highly efficient sugar cane-derived ethanol (while the U.S. forces nearly 40% of its corn crop to be used for ethanol, which might even use more fuel than it generates).

The news about climate change, alternative fuels, and the consequences for future competitiveness is becoming so obvious that one almost has to try not to notice.  The headlines provide almost daily reminders.  Yesterday a headline indicated that Great Britain—under a conservative government—will announce a goal of sharp reductions in greenhouse gases of 50% by 2025 that will be more ambitious than even that of Europe.  This is at a time of extraordinary austerity measures in that country. 

Why is it that the rest of the world—not just progressive Scandinavia, but even China—“gets it,” while the U.S. clings to 19th century fuels and protects those dirty industries?  

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