The new black
Illustration: Adam Fitzcharles

Is green the new black gold?

An interview with Carl Pope from the Sierra Club

Since energy is going to be the dominant factor in making our investment decisions for the next decade, I thought it would be a good time to sit down with Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. Carl is as sharp as a tack, with the fervor of an evangelist, always a dangerous combination. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I was a member of the Sierra Club back in the sixties when they were mostly interested in identifying mountain wildflowers and bird calls. They changed a little after that. Carl says that the “Earth has a fever,” with temperatures rising, glaciers melting, forests burning, oceans rising and acidifying, and the overwhelming cause is hydrocarbon burning. The US needs to cut CO2 emissions to 2 tons per person, per year, by 2050, or down 90 percent from today’s levels. To do this we need to ban the burning of coal by 2030, unless it is sequestered, and stop all petroleum consumption by 2040. We can accomplish this by converting all cars to electric and moving freight via an electrified rail system. Petroleum needs to be classified as toxic waste, and a cleanup superfund needs to be set up, funded by 10 percent of the earnings of the oil companies for the next ten years. If we eliminate oil consumption, our trade deficit will improve by $100 billion/year, that money can be invested in the US to create 10 million jobs, and we will all be a lot healthier. The biggest and quickest way to cut CO2 emissions is to convert all coal fired power plants to natural gas immediately, and Carl likes the Pickens plan (see www.madhedgefundtrader.com/May_15__2009.html ). Carl is not shy about using his 40-man Washington DC office to twist the arms of recalcitrant senators and congressmen to achieve these ambitious goals. I had to pinch myself. The Sierra Club has backed off from its earlier, more radical positions, and that much of what they are saying makes good economic sense. No more going back to a bicycle based economy. While 40 years is not exactly tomorrow, look how fast the last 40 have gone by. Remember pedal pushers, thin ties, fins on Chevy’s, and the Bay of Pigs? When contemplating your risk positions, you always have to consider all views. Who knew that $147/barrel would turn us all into environmentalists?


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Comments

In fact, many are realizing that almost completely "de-motorizing" the urban centres of our cities may be necessary to achieve the drastic energy consumption cuts that are required. De-motorizing our cities results in drastically less CO2 but also less pollution, less noise, less stress, less loss from death and injury, more human interaction, better sense of community. And face it, who wouldn't enjoy walking through the city on a tree-lined (car-free) boulevard? - and that includes EVs.

Speaking of which, EVs are a fantastic great red-herring, for until most or all the energy for electricity generation, not to mention the factories that produce the EVs, and the mining for the resources that produce them, comes from clean sources there will be little or no net gain to the planet from switching to EVs. Doh!

By applying the KISS principle(Keep It Simple Stupid) those who choose to can deal with many of these transport issues on a personal level by simply riding a bicycle instead. I do not expect everyone to suddenly start riding bicycles - not at least until sume of these boulevards are built.

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