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With our ever mounting trade and budget deficits, unemployment above 10 percent (and, dependent on counting, un- and under-employment above 20 percent), looming peak oil and other resource (water, for example) limitations, environmental challenges, and ever-mounting climate chaos ,  we are in a very serious situation.  Our serious challenges are, as the previous sentence suggests, a networked system-of-systems that interact and reinforce each other.

As some are wont to say, crises create opportunities. One good piece of news, amid all the serious concerns that that list above should create for all of us, is the reality that many Win-Win-Win-Win-Win-Win (Win to the Sixth) opportunities lie before us, if we choose to seize them.

As we strive to stop digging the holes deeper and climb our way out, we can seek to deal with these challenges in a stove-piped manner or address them with W6 solutions that have wins across multiple arenas:

  • Support energy independence

  • Create and protect jobs

  • Foster economic activity (cost effectively)

  • Strengthen long-term economic prospects

  • Address negative environmental impacts (from local pollution to acidification of the oceans)

  • Help mitigate climate change

Very briefly, here are eight examples that meet these criteria:

Energy Efficiency:  The "negawatt" and "negagallon" is the least expensive incremental power source available in the United States (and much of the world).  At a cost of less than 4 cents per kilowatt hour, the United States could cut its power demand by over 20 percent over the coming decade (at less than half the cost of the cheapest new power source options).  A serious national focus on energy efficiency would improve business competitiveness globally, reduce fossil fuel usage (and health impacts from that use), and enable renewable energy to ever-faster retire polluting power plants while keeping money in people's pockets (and carbon in the ground).

Greening Public Schools represents one of thos 'no-brainer' actions that we should all embrace as it is potentially the only path to improve educational performance, improve youth health, improve community and global environment, create jobs, and strengthen local government financing while saving money.

Financing Net Zero (& Lower Energy Demand) Building: As discussed here, Architecture 2030 developed The 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan to create roughly nine million (yes, 9,000,000) jobs and several trillion dollars of building activity through a two-year, $192.47 billion program focused on using financial instruments to spark investment in energy efficiency in private buildings throughout the nation.  Buildings account for roughly 40 percent of America's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This program would put a serious dent into that figure while skyrocketing the United States in a global leadership position in building energy efficiency.

Rail Electrification: A $100 billion federal commitment over the coming decade could spark a matching private sector investment that would cut perhaps ten percent of America's oil use, more than paying for the total cost via reduced imported oil costs (without even considering the benefits through reduced pollution, etc ...).

Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Buses:  Current school buses get about 5.5 mpg of diesel. Conversion to PHESB improves this to about 11 mpg. Diesel fumes from school buses are a top threat to the health of America's K-12 population. PHESBs cut diesel exposure by 70%. In addition to helping cut America's oil addiction (by 2020, a decent PHESB program could lead to a 0.5 day reduction in US oil demand (about 11 million barrels, year)), PHESBs offer the opportunity for improved disaster services (imagine 5000 mobile generator / storage systems ready to move into the Gulf Coast from surrounding communities post Katrina), improving electricity energy efficiency (through having distributed power storage in PHESB parks), and

DESERTEC:  One of the most powerful images for a renewable energy future, a burning hot one we might suggest, is TREC, which is a grand vision for connecting solar power in North Africa, wind power from the Eastern Mediterranean to the North Sea, bio-mass, and hydropower with a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system of power lines to provide assured renewable electricity for the Mediterranean basin and Europe. This concept, which has seemed ever so Renewable Energy COOL to me from the first time I encountered it, looks to be moving down a path from fantastic innovative concept to potential reality as Europe is beginning investments that might total into the $100s of billions in the coming decades to make this a reality.   This system won't necessarily just produce clean power, but a 'waste' product will be clean water than can support agriculture and local jobs.  If connected to a serious bio-char/agro-char program for enriching the soil, this could lead to ever-increasing agricultural productivity in employment and water-starved regions while sequestering serious amounts of carbon. (Thus lowering emissions due to clean energy production and lowering CO2 levels via enhanced-natural sequestion: attacking the GHG problem from two ends.) (Imagine this in employment starved and conflict prone areas like Israel-Palestine or along the US-Mexico border.)

Trent (OMEGA) Algae:  This a developing OMEGA effort, led by Jonathan Trent of NASA, to make algae biofuel in a renewable energy process that will clean up sewage currently being dumped into the world's oceans. There is also the potential that electrical power generation could be connected to the fuel production. (OMEGA Algae is still in testing, but is a great example of the looming Win to the Sixth opportunities there for the taking ... if we would only choose to seize them.)  [NOTE: Trent spoke Monday evening in Washington, DC, as part of a US government lecture series.]

Concepts to provide multi-faceted solutions were core toEnergize America from its earliest moments.  How to 'make the right choice, the easy and preferred choice' with paths that would address energy, environmental, and economic challenges in a systems fashion rose to the top above stove-piped concepts. We must, as individuals and as a nation, pursue such Win to the Sixth opportunities or risk stove-piped approaches that seemingly solve one problem while exacerbating others.

PS:  Please feel free (please do) use the comments section to add in other Win6 solution paths.

Originally posted to A Siegel on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 12:43 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  But.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, Unenergy

    All good, all vital, and all should be the subject of focus for a lot of us.

    Here comes the "But..."

    It seems to me that if we can fix the root causes most of these (and other) issues will be solved. My observation leads me to believe we have two root problems:

    1. Campaign finance reform. Until we fix this the fix is in. Big money Republicans, such as oil companies and drug companies, will tilt the playing field so the public loses. They'll create Blue Dog Democrats and fund the Republican Noise Machine. That hurts America on a very broad and very deep basis. Fix that and a lot of the other problems will get solved.
    1. Education. It's no secret that the least educate areas of the country are the most Republican. The lack of a good education makes people gullible and Republicanism thrives on that. Republican politicians, in turn, take the lead in opposing reform in the six areas named above. Fix education and a lot of other things get fixed.

    Big jobs and there's a lot of opposition but it seems to me that these two issues are fundamental to getting anything else done.

    Though I may be wrong.

    A Southerner in Yankeeland

    •  While not in disagreement (4+ / 0-)

      I don't see how we have the time to "wait" to solve these root problems to then be addressing the ones that I highlight in my opening paragraph.

      •  True (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, A Siegel, Unenergy

        I agree. The two root problems will take longer and there are things that need to be done now. I don't think those are mutually exclusive goals.

        I've seen a lot of people fight for specific issues and then be disappointed and deflated even if they win the day because "nothing changes". Sometimes this frustration leads to withdrawal. I think it's good to remind people that there are two root causes, first, so they can spend some time correcting them, and second, so they understand that even a win on an issue can be compromised later on because of those two root causes.

        On occasion, being aware of the root causes can provide some insight when fighting the other battles.

        A Southerner in Yankeeland

    •  Whether or not political corruption and ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      ... the diversion of resources from education to incarceration are the "root causes" of climate chaos and the challenges of Peak Oil ...

      ... the above are part of any strategy to fix them. Any progressive change coalition that is going to have the political clout to tackle these problems will have to be delivering multiple benefits to multiple constituencies, and new growth industries in the New Energy Economy will have to be among them - we have never succeeded in winning progressive change in this country without a rising industrial sector as part of the change coalition.

      And we do not have the luxury of single-issue politics, which can by its nature only achieve incremental change within the current bounds of the politically possible - we need to pursue broad coalition politics, since the minimum that we need to accomplish is more than is presently politically feasible.

      When we have to do the politically impossible, that means we have to change the political landscape to do so, which requires building a broad coalition.

  •  Great diary as always A Siegel (4+ / 0-)

    These are such no brainers that they should sail thru. Hope so, but have fears. Enjoyed this one.

    •  As we speak of a Jobs program (3+ / 0-)

      the items in the diary could, within reasonable estimates, create 10+ million jobs over the course of 18 months or so while achieving many other things. (Honestly, the PHESBs and Trent Algae are unlikely to be big job numbers, at least in near term, and the DeserTEC-type activity would take some time to build up but would have real employment momentum for decades to come.)

      •  But we need jobs not only now, but going ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        ... forward. We can begin the process of electrifying STRACNET within a year of providing a sustainable financial base - the annual interest subsidy on a $475b, six year program, with the original capital cost paid off over time by access fees and user fees, would peaks in the range of $15b~$24b - spread out over a decade it would be less, as capital work in early years would begin to be paid off before capital work in later segments begins.

        A $2/barrel imported petroleum and petroleum product tax would yield in excess of $8b annually. That would be enough to cover establishment and planning costs nationwide and then to finance >$160b~$260b total capital finance outstanding annually.

        The industry contribution would be an easement allowing construction of the electrification and Rapid Rail infrastructure on their Right of Way and of course the user and access fees that repays the original capital cost.

        Once that gets going, additional funding could accelerate completion of the program - for example, from capturing CO2 emissions fees presently planned to be wasted on grandfathering emitting industries.

        Retrofit of existing structure for reduced energy waste and increased energy gain is also an activity that can generate substantial employment today, and even more if there is leverage involved - for example, broadening the "low-income consumer protection" portion of CO2 fees into a broadly based Social Dividend, and allow qualifying improvements to be financed by borrowing against future social dividend payments.

        Front-load what can be front-loaded, and at the same time pursue the projects that need five to ten years to start generating high levels of employment.

  •  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) should read this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, A Siegel

    most excellent diary!

    yeah, I know........

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