Environmental Stimulus

By now I’m sure that everyone has already heard plenty about all of the money being handed over to big banks, insurance companies, and automakers to “stimulate the economy”. I wonder if those trillions of dollars are actually going to fix anything for the long term. The funny thing is that people, especially our leaders, seem to be looking past the economic benefits of the environmentally friendly options that are available out there, and of the possible economic stimulus that can be achieved through the funding of alternative energy projects and efficiency upgrades.

On a small scale, all of us can save a fair bit of money by simply saving energy, which of course is good for the environment and costs us nothing. For example, you can save a significant amount of fuel just by keeping your tires at the right pressure, by idling less, and by driving a little slower (my little New Beetle uses more than 20% extra fuel when driving 110 km/hr as compared to 80!). At home you can save on your heating costs by closing the curtains at night, and by turning down the heat at night and when you’re not there. There are many more free ways to save money like that, but of course that doesn’t stimulate our economy, which requires that we all spend money.

You may recall from a previous article I wrote (which is also still on my website), that there are some excellent investments you can make on your home that will make your home more environmentally friendly and will save you money in the long run. A widespread investment of this sort could really make a significant impact on the economy, while benefiting all of us and our descendants for years to come.

At this point, the total bailout bill in the US alone is roughly 10.5 trillion dollars. A trillion dollars is a thousand billion, or a million million dollars. It’s interesting to note that it took the US government just a few months to slap down that money, yet whenever it comes to any alternative energy project, they complain about the price tags and then never do it. For example, Scientific American did an article on setting up a huge solar power system in the sunny Southern US, which could easily supply the entire US with more than two-thirds of their electricity by 2050 and thereby make that country energy independent. This project would require $420 billion dollars over the next 40 years, or 10 billion per year. That’s 10.1 trillion less than what was just given away to the big industries, plus they wouldn’t have to waste trillions of dollars on wars to get oil. This kind of project also creates a lot of new jobs. Given the current job shortages, it would also be the best time to take on such a project in terms of labour costs.

Think of all the solar panels, windmills, and general energy efficiency upgrades 10.5 trillion dollars could buy for individual home owners and for communities, and of all the jobs and spin off economic benefits that would produce. I’ll tip my hat at the BC and Canadian governments at this time, because they are already providing home owners with rebates for energy upgrades like that through their LiveSmart BC and EcoEnergy programs – maybe a bit of extra funding could put this program in high gear to stimulate our economy right now. Here’s our chance for Canada to show the US how it’s done!