Green is a Conservative Idea

Not Enough Tories and Republicans Are Paying Attention

Bruce Nagy

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I just do not understand today’s conservatives. Why are many of you ignoring the modern way to make money? Clean tech represents one of the few guaranteed investment gold mines for capitalists, and conservation makes this a double whammy of Tory goodness.

Clean Tech will be $4.4 trillion in about 6-1/2 years

There are a whole pack of people quietly raking it in with clean tech, which is a $2.2 trillion business worldwide right now, and is expected to mushroom to about twice that during the next seven years. Its growth has outpaced almost everything during the downturn, on average 12% since 2007.

According to Bloomberg and the United Nations, global investment in renewable power and fuels increased 17% to a new record of $257 billion last year. USA investment leapt 57% to $51 billion. In 2010 China was the leader, investing $48 billion.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says global wind power capacity increased by an average annual growth rate of more than 25% over the past five years. Photovoltaic solar has grown more than 50% each year since 2006. The IEA’s 2012 World Energy Outlook projects a 300%-400% increase in electricity from renewables by 2035, based on information from oil companies and its member states, the largest countries in the world. Eventually renewables are expected to provide half the world’s energy or more.

The Tree-Huggers Are Now the Fat Cats

The world’s largest producer of wind energy, Spain-based Iberdrola SA, blew way analysts’ expectations last year with a whopping $4 billion in profits. Year over year investment growth for solar in Canada was 65% from 2005-2010. In the USA, solar employed more than 100,000 people in 2010-2011 compared with 82,500 for the coal industry.

Renewables technologies are increasingly profitable. In 2011 PV module prices fell by close to 50%, and onshore wind turbine prices dropped by 10%. Through district heating and cooling projects, geothermal capital costs are dropping, making levelized costs for geo more attractive.

Conservation and Building Efficiency

Analysts all agree that mechanical system retrofits in existing buildings will be a huge business for the next 10 years at least. According to the UK’s Grantham Research Institute, increasing insulation, draft-proofing, installing good-quality double-glazed windows and switching to more efficient appliances and lighting will save at least 10% on energy in residential retrofits and 25% in non-residential retrofits.

This is very real, big money. The Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada can provide years of perfectly documented case studies showing millions in savings. If you want a piece of the action, conservatives need to first recognize that this is the new business era we live in.

Nuclear Should be Frightening for Conservatives

It’s time to tell the truth. Nukes just make the richest labour unions richer. The USA Congressional Budget Office says the cost of building the last 75 nuclear plants in the U.S. exceeded estimates by more than 300%. So, actual cost was about $3000 per kW not including waste storage. Basically, business cases for nukes are not what thinking capitalists should admire.

In 2007 Moody’s Investor Service increased estimates to $5,000-$6,000 per kW and Keystone Center researchers found surprisingly high operating costs of 30 cents per kW. A proposed new Florida project was quoted at $8000 per kW in 2008. It takes something like 16 years from conception to operation, allowing costs to mushroom, and making the whole exercise a bit moot in today’s accelerating energy innovation environment. There are a lot of options that conservatives should look at instead, which are now very proven, all more competitive and much quicker to build.

In Canada in the Province of Ontario, one study showed that for 50% of the cost of a new nuclear reactor we could instead retrofit 1.6 million homes and save the same amount of energy. How can a conservative ignore a saving of half the cost? The study also showed it would create 90 times more modern-skilled jobs for our young people.

Mayor Ford and the Best Business in the World

I worked as chief of staff for a Toronto city councillor and got to know the now famous or infamous Mayor Ford. I won’t comment on his political missteps, but I will say that some of his ideas are not bad. One day his chief strategist asked for a meeting, I guess because he heard we had some green cred. The strategist told me in the meeting that green is a conservative concept, because it saves so much money and it will continue to be the best business in the world for the next few decades. He’s absolutely right.

Toronto is in the Province of Ontario. Last year I was talking to the President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Allan O’Dette. You would probably have to describe him as a conservative. He agreed that the best strategy to revive the suffering Ontario manufacturing sector is to encourage development of clean tech.

It’s time for the rest of the conservatives out there to wake up and get in on the clean tech gold mine.

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