'Earth: The Sequel'
Friday, April 25, 2008; 12:00 PM
Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp, co-author of "Earth: The Sequel -- The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming," was online Friday, April 25 at noon ET to discuss the bold innovators and investors who are reinventing energy and the ways we use it -- and who might save the planet if given a fair chance to compete.
The transcript follows.
Krupp has been a pioneer in the use of market forces to achieve ambitious environmental goals, helping craft the acid rain reduction plan in the 1990 Clean Air Act and the U.S. proposal for the global climate treaty.
Fred Krupp: Hi, Glad to here, I'm Fred Krupp, co-author with Miriam Horn, of "Earth: The Sequel." Looking forward to taking your questions.
Los Angeles: I read exciting theories about fusion energy, converting trash into vehicle fuel, and all kinds of long-term solutions that would appear to solve the bulk of our energy and environmental problems. How far along are we on developing many of these alternative sources, and perhaps more important, how far away are we from mass use of such alternatives? What are the obstacles in their research, development and production for the mass market?
Fred Krupp: There are an abundance of alternatives, but now there isn't a level playing field, because anyone can throw global warming pollution in the sky without a cap. Once we limit the amount of pollution, and ratchet it down over time, everything changes.
With a strong cap-and-trade system put in place (the Senate will vote on the climate security act the week of June 2 -- which is strong, though we are seeking some changes to make it even better) alternatives come to market much sooner. One reason for this is there will be a cascade of money, now largely sitting on the sidelines, that invests and speeds development, once the law sets up a green market that makes clean much more profitable.
Arlington, Va.: Is there one place, like a clearinghouse Web site, where information on alternative energy sources, installation costs, pros and cons, amount saved per year, maintenance issues and costs, availability, etc., is available? Information is spread all over the place, and it is so hard to figure out what if any source or combination is better than what we have now. Help the consumer become educated, please!
Fred Krupp: There isn't one place on the Web like that; it would be great if there was. On pages 255-256 of the book we list the best Web resources we used to write the book, so that should help you.
The book itself gives a framework to help think about the different options, and their pros and cons. Whether you are interested in a job in the area or making an investment, or even starting a company, it should help you participate in the coming transformation of the $6 trillion energy sector.
Alexandria, Va.: A recent National Public Radio article revealed that NOAA's measurement of global ocean temperatures for the past four years shows no increase in temperatures. Is their reporting correct?
Fred Krupp: Global warming is a long-term trend and short-term variation is normal. Ocean temperature is a good example -- it has been roughly steady over the past few years, but the long-term trend (for the past 50-plus years) is clearly up.
Los Angeles: Do you see any major distortions in the free market regarding the developing of alternative energy sources? Are oil companies investing heavily into alternative sources, and is this a sign they are preparing for the future? Or might they be attempting to slow the research and development of new industries that might harm their current investments?
Fred Krupp: Let's take, for example, piping smokestack gasses through pipes to recycle the CO2 into algae, and then make the algae into fuel -- using the CO2 twice before emitting it.
The major distortion in the free market that exists now is that companies can just pump the waste CO2 into the air without cost or limit. It's the biggest subsidy we give fossil fuels. Once that changes, then ideas like green fuels (Chapter 5) become much more profitable. If they can make it work for practical cost they can happen -- but only once you cap carbon by law.
Stony Brook, N.Y.: I believe that a systemic shift in the way the country operates is the best approach to tackle environmental conservation and global warming. Doesn't this call for a cabinet-level post in the government with more powers than the EPA -- something like the departments of Homeland Security or the Defense?
Fred Krupp: With good leadership, the EPA can do good things, whether it's a department or not. We haven't had good leadership on global warming from EPA, as you know.
Yes, if we could get both parties to work together, EPA should be a cabinet-level agency.
Norman, Okla.: After so many years in the environmental field, why did you finally decide to write a book?
Fred Krupp: I was watching John Doerr, a venture capitalist talk about his new greentech investments in September 2006. There were weak carbon caps already coming into place that made these investments more profitable. He saw the future coming.
It became clear to me that we are about to see a transformation -- once we get the rules right. I thought it was important for people to know that this was coming, not just for the investment opportunities, but more because it's important to know there is reason for hope.
In my 30 years in this field, I have come to understand the absence of hope is a huge obstacle. Once people give up, then they don't engage. So once I could see so many options to create energy and reduce emissions, and once I knew that carbon caps were the biggest thing that could bring this about, I had to team up with Miriam and get this message out.
McLean, Va.: Mr. Krupp, barely a moment passes when I'm not cognizant of something I have on that uses electricity, or of the value of the gasoline I consume while driving. Then again, I feel I have no real idea of what it all amounts to and what impact I have by choosing not to drive or not to use the clothes dryer. How can we go about making these connections -- and their impacts -- more transparent? Further, with James Hansen now saying we need to reduce global carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million or below, how can we translate that into individual actions?
Fred Krupp: There are now more and more companies developing and beginning to market devices for the home that make which appliances use what energy transparent. There are many carbon calculators on the Web, on edf.org
There is a lot of good info. I like this carbon calculator. One other thing that makes carbon footprint more transparent is the cap-and-trade system, because the less car-on intensive activities -- the fuel-efficient car, the TV that uses less juice -- cost less to run.
Katonah, N.Y.: How do we ensure that the developing world -- particularly China and India -- join us in this effort when their economic development priorities appear to be paramount?
Fred Krupp: Global warming pollution stays in the atmosphere a long time -- some, like carbon dioxide, a hundred years. So while China and U.S. emit about the same, we are a much bigger share of the inventory in the atmosphere, the too-thick thermal blanket that is causing the warming.
So, we need to lead by example, we need to get our incentives right so we are developing the cheaper green alternatives that make their job easier and we can sell these, we need to make this issue a diplomatic priority and negotiate with China and India and have them make commitments also. Lieberman-Warner, the climate security act, which will be voted on June 2 in the Senate, has provisions that address this question. Basically they provide that after a few years, if China and India don't follow us, then when they export a carbon intensive product, they'd need to package it with a scientifically good, internationally certified carbon reduction to level the playing field -- and make sure we all are doing our part.
McLean, Va.: What will the market for biochar (agrichar) look like in the next five to 10 years? What kinds of incentives for reforestation and better methods of agriculture are we likely to see?
Fred Krupp: Agriculture and forestry can play an important role in fighting global warming. As with any other method to reduce emissions, agroforestry activities need to be monitored and verified. Biochar is a neat idea -- to the extent that scientists can prove it works to sequester carbon for the long run. See this link.
Also, because deforestation accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it's important to give developing nations incentives not to cut down trees in the first place. See Chapter 9 in the book.
EDF is working hard on this issue through a proposal called "compensated reduction." You can learn more right here. Again, edf.org an excellent resource.
Fred Krupp: Thanks for all your questions, and for your interest in these issues. Remember, we can solve it!
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