From the Republican hoopla on Solyndra's failure, you get the impression that Federal investment in clean energy is a waste of taxpayer money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Venture Capital investments are judged by their return on investment.
... most private sector VC investments go bankrupt or have no significant positive return.
... by that criteria you would have to say that federal clean energy investments are wildly successful,...
Three energy-efficiency programs, costing approximately $11 million... Most significant were advances made in compressors for refrigerators and freezers, energy-efficient fluorescent-lighting components called electronic ballasts, and low-emission, or heat-resistant, window glass. Standards and regulations incorporating efficiencies attainable by these new technologies ensured that the technologies would be adopted nationwide, thus dramatically compounding their impact.
Bill Clinton talks about the economics of climate change.
... what I am trying to do, literally all the time, is to prove that saving the planet is better economics than burning it up. Not 10 or 20 or 50 years from now — [but] now.
There are a lot of people ... Their view is, ‘...the world is coming apart at the seams economically and ... We have to deal with other things.’ [For] those people,... you must prove it is good economics to change the way we produce and pursue energy…. So what I do to try to overcome the climate skeptics is to figure out how to solve the financing problems, because fundamentally all the financing problems look alike. Whether you’re dealing with clean energy or energy efficiency, the costs are all up-front and the savings are all in the back ….” [second emphasis mine]
Joe Romm sums it up:
... the recent scientific literature says are the key impacts we face in the second half of the century if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path.
- Staggeringly high temperature rise, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States
- Sea level rise of 3 to 7 feet, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter
- Dust Bowls over the U.S. SW and many other heavily populated regions around the globe
- Massive species loss on land and sea — 50% or more of all life
- Unexpected impacts — the fearsome “unknown unknowns”
- More severe hurricanes — especially in the Gulf
...the worst impacts would be “largely irreversible for 1000 years.”
The single biggest failure of messaging by climate scientists (until very recently) has been the failure to explain to the public, opinion makers, and the media that business-as-usual warming results in impacts that are beyond catastrophic. [emphasis mine]
So however fearful the costs seem of a transition to clean energy now,
...averting the incalculable cost of catastrophic global warming impacts to the next 50 generations, ... means the cost of action is far, far less than the cost of inaction.