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Dec. 11 2009 - 7:21 am | 9 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

Commerce Secretary tells Copenhagen audience the oil economy is over

US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke addresses a p...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

COPENHAGEN–The world’s petroleum-based economy belongs to the past, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said here Friday.

He urged the 192 nations who sent representatives to the UN Climate Change Conference to resist pressures from those with vested interests in the status quo, eliminate incentives to the petroleum industry, and design incentives to create jobs in the clean-energy industry.

Locke said unparalleled economic growth occurred in the 20th Century because of two factors: access to cheap, abundant fossil fuels and ignorance or disregard for the fact that those fuels produced greenhouse gas pollution that caused global warming. Both of those factors, he said, belong to history.

“Those days are over,” Locke said moments ago in Copenhagen. “What’s required is nothing less than completely redesigning the way we produce and consume energy…. We’re talking about creating an entirely new model of economic growth.”The world has spent a century investing in petroleum infrastructure, Locke said: refineries, pipelines, stations.

“That creates vested interests in keeping things just the way they are,” he said.

Locke urged nations to stop catering to those interests. They should do so, he said, by eliminating subsidies to energy producers who also produce greenhouse gases.

President Obama’s 2009-10 budget eliminated what he called “oil and gas company preferences,” saving an estimated $12.7 billion during his first term in office and an estimated $31.5 billion over the next decade. The budget also included an excise tax that restores royalty revenues omitted from leases on off-shore drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nations can spur jobs growth by redirecting those incentives to renewable energy concerns, making it easier for them to solve the problem of climate change.

“This climate problem too big and the need for innovation too great to involve government alone.”


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  1. collapse expand

    Given these options – 1. pay money into R&D for solar, hydro, tide, wave, algae, alternative fusion, and wind power plants and hope it pays off later, or 2. stick a big straw in/dig up the ground for 1/2 the price to make twice the power right now, which option will the world choose? Environmentally friendly sustainable energy that can build a clean prosperous future Vs. bags of money to play with RIGHT NOW. Bags of money win every time.

  2. collapse expand

    Great point, E. Locke claims it’s not so much a matter of R&D as shifting incentives to favor clean technologies that are available now

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    About Me

    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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