Creating Our Own Apollo Project for Clean Energy

If there’s one positive that could come from the Gulf oil spill, it may be a renewed political will to catalyze a transformation away from dirty sources of power and towards a clean and renewable future.  The concept has always held a certain appeal, and with the help of former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who last year called the 40th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon the moment we should all get on board, there is a certain amount of inbound momentum for what is called the Apollo Project for Clean Energy.

According to Angelides,

America’s new Apollo mission will catalyze a clean energy revolution that will spur domestic job growth, end our reliance on foreign energy sources, curb climate change, and position our nation to thrive in the 21st century.

Our move toward clean energy continues unabated.  Two years ago, the US Bureau of Land Management had zero applications for large scale solar projects.  Today it has 125, which, if completed, would produce enough electricity to retire 70 large coal power plants.  But according to broad scientific consensus, it still is moving far too slowly to counteract devastating climatic change, let alone all of the impact of our dirty economy on public health and the political instability caused by ever-greater consumption of ever-dwindling non-renewable resources.  Hence the call for the Apollo Project.

And hence, my call in this article for all of us to create our own Apollo Project, one that can not be affected by the whims of political breezes.  Here’s how.

1.  Buy renewable energy.  If your public utility offers a renewable energy option, buy it.  It may not seem like much, maybe a few extra bucks per month, but cumulatively, the market signal it sends is a powerful one.  It shows developers of wind farms that there is unmet demand.  It shows power utilities that they need to be moving their investments away from coal and toward wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and other renewable, clean options.

2.  We need to stop opposing renewable energy projects because of arguably petty, Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)  concernsCape Wind garners a lot of headlines, with residents of Cape Cod having fought development of an offshore wind farm for many years because it would hypothetically impede their views.  But there are others.  In Southern California, groups oppose solar development on the grounds that it may impact the desert tortoise, burrowing owl, and Mojave desert squirrel.  If our economy continues to depend on dirty sources of fuel, views and small numbers of species will be the least of our problems.

3.  We need to stop giving money to support dirty fuel and its allies.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about how I was switching cell phone companies to CREDO Mobile.  This was in part because I was done with my two year plan, but it was also in part because CREDO makes an excellent point in its marketing:  why would I support AT&T, when AT&T gives piles of money to Republicans (top 6 contributor, in fact, giving over $200K to the party this year alone, according to Open Secrets)?  A bill for clean energy has passed the House of Representatives, and a similar measure sits in the Senate.  For all intents and purposes, it would create a lot of incentives for green collar job creation, clean tech investment, and clean energy development.  Not a single Republican is going to vote for it, and all 41 of them may band together to filibuster the bill.  Unacceptable.  So take a look at Open Secrets, a website by the Center for Responsive Politics, which displays who is giving what to whom.  No surprises…besides AT&T, the Republican party’s top donors include drug makers, oil & gas companies, health insurers, plastics manufacturers, and others who are part of the ‘old economy’.

4.  We need to take advantage of the multitude of ways we can support clean energy through our purchases, investments, services, actions, lifestyle, and volunteerism.  I recently put money into a CD at New Resource Bank.  It’s like a CD at any other bank:  it earns me interest, and matures after a certain amount of time.  The difference is that New Resource, according to a banker there, has the added benefit that investors like me get “the satisfaction of knowing that their money is working to support a more sustainable community,” because NRB uses my money to invest in renewable energy projects, green building and sustainable food enterprises. I’ve written several times on 3P about BrighterPlanet, a company that offers a  credit card that helps generate renewable energy projects with every purchase you make on it.  Anyone who uses email marketing could switch from AWeber or Mail Chimp to Namaste Light.  It plants a tree every time I send an email to the supporters of my company.  Opportunities in this arena are literally countless.

5.  Don’t forget that the cleanest energy is the one we don’t use.  Build a clothesline.  Mine has saved me hundreds of dollars in electricity since I set it up three years ago.  My bicycle has saved me countless thousands of dollars in gas, tickets, parking, etc.  Get yourself set up with efficient everything.

***

Scott Cooney grows organic vegetables and fruits in sunny San Francisco, and believes in the power of the individual to build a cumulative surge.

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.