…If you’re worried that stopping global warming will wreck the economy, you’re looking at this all wrong. Solving global warming will be an added cost, yes – but a bargain compared with the economic cost of unchecked climate change. And fixing this problem will create an historic economic opportunity.
Energy is the biggest business in the world, “the mother of all markets,” says venture capitalist John Doerr, Google’s first funder. The winners of the race to reinvent energy will not only save the planet, but will also make megafortunes.
A Silicon Valley firm, Innovalight, has figured out a way to harvest solar energy much more cheaply than present technology allows by dissolving silicon nanocrystals in ink, which will ultimately be printed onto roof panels like we print ink onto paper. Using a platform they developed as postdoctoral students at Berkeley, the founding scientists of a company called Amyris have re-engineered yeast to ferment sugar into pure hydrocarbon fuels. Unlike ethanol, the fuel has the energy density of gasoline (or jet fuel, if that’s what they program the yeast to produce) and can be shipped through existing pipelines and pumped into any car now on the road.
Under a cap-and-trade regime, Congress will set limits on greenhouse gas pollution, and ratchet down those limits over time. Congress won’t dictate to business which technologies to use – the marketplace will determine the ones that work best at the lowest cost. Cap-and-trade is a proven approach. When applied to acid rain pollution in the 1980s, it solved the problem faster and cheaper than anyone thought possible.
Global warming skeptics notwithstanding, fixing global warming won’t be a drain on the economy. On the contrary, it will unleash one of the greatest floods of new wealth in history. When Congress finally acts, America’s entrepreneurs and inventors will find the capital they need to solve global warming – and a lot of people will make a killing.