Clean Tech Nation

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  • Book: Clean Tech Nation. by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, Harper Business, New York, 2012


Review

By Hazel Henderson:

"Reading CLEAN TECH NATION, subtitled "How the USA Can Lead in the New Global Economy" by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder buttressed my new view of the Obama performance and gave me hope for the U.S. future in spite of the political gridlock and the avalanche of fossil-fuel based money pouring into Republican coffers since the Supreme Court decision of 2010. The politics of the transition to the Solar Age is heating up, but Pernick and Wilder tell another hidden story: the Green New Deal is winning! All this evidence the authors cite is largely under-reported by the mainstream media whose ad revenues still come from the fossilized sectors hyping "clean coal" and "safe, clean nuclear power." This inevitable media bias was the reason I founded Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) in 2004 as I despaired of citizens ever getting coherent coverage of the green transition I had been predicting since 1981. Thus, we produced TV shows on "Growing the Green Economy"; "Green Building and Design"; "Socially Responsible Investing"; "Redefining Success" and our current series on "Transforming Finance" to illuminate not only the green transition underway worldwide since 2007, but also the economics paradigm shift underlying this transition and the new scorecards of progress beyond GDP.

Pernick and Wilder's deep knowledge of these growing green sectors in the USA and worldwide comes from their research and from their firm Clean Edge, a leader for over a decade tracking the research, technologies, start-ups, venture capital firms, banks, and the same beneficial effects of governments' standard-setting and Obama's ARRA documented by Grunwald. Even with my professional focus on green technologies since my 6 years in Washington advising the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Science Foundation, I was surprised by Pernick and Wilder's in-depth look at the robustness and innovation of this green transition in the USA. Clean Tech Nation is literally a goldmine of un-reported progress in scaling solar, wind, geothermal and other green energy sources, the full contribution of efficiency, not only in buildings and infrastructure, but in every sector of our wasteful economy. The authors see the shift to sustainability in redesigning industrial processes, housing, transportation, cities, as huge business opportunities and next-wave job producers -- as we do at Ethical Markets Media. They show how carbon is making more efficient cement, and used as a feedstock for polymers and coatings; how waste streams are converted into resources, ZEB buildings (zero energy) producing all they need and even feeding grids. They map the shift to local distributed energy through micro-grids that are smarter and residential houses as batteries for recharging electric vehicles and utilities' load-balancing smoothed using solar, wind and natural gas for peaking. Clearly it's time to short U.S. coal and nuclear power while, as the authors note, monitoring the fracking of natural gas for threats to water supplies since it will replace much coal and serve as a bridge to the all-renewables future as early as 2030.

For green investors like me and our audience at Ethical Markets, this book will provide new avenues of exploration as we look for new winners for our battered portfolios. Pernick and Wilder also provide a 7-point action plan for public-private partnerships, including expanding REITs and MLPs (Master Limited Partnerships) to allow for green renewables; SolarTech's standards for contracts and financing, as well as green banks and a Smart Infrastructure Bank (focused on energy efficiency and renewables rather than more highways) similar to Obama's proposal.

Sensible standards and fiscal policies to provide certainty can also allow pension funds to access these new green investments, along with the green bonds already issued by the World Bank, and promoted by the Climate Bonds Initiative and the Green Victory Bonds of Green America. Meanwhile, all institutional investors led by those committed to low-carbon development such as the UN-Principles of Responsible Investment with $30 trillion AUM, can shift at least 10% of their assets away from their textbook formulas, now in risky hedge funds, private equity, commodity ETFs, even HFT in the desperate search for alpha. They can move to direct investments in growing green sector companies we cover in our Green Transition Scoreboard as we advise. Even further, Mercer International's reports now urge these institutional funds to move at least 40% of their assets into green sectors (half to hedge risks and half to capitalize on the new opportunities) so well described in Clean Tech Nation. Both books are valuable guides to the next decade, laying out the many viable options for growing knowledge-based cleantech societies in the USA and worldwide.

What these authors overlook is the deeper problem faced by debt-based money systems and how levels of un-repayable debt in the USA, Europe, Japan and other countries have historically led to restructuring and defaults over the past centuries as documented by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in This Time It's Different (2009). Yes, scaling up the global Green New Deal will require at least $1 trillion of private investment annually until 2020, and the Green Transition Scoreboard® shows the world is on the right track. Both books show that government standard setting, reforms to tax codes, markets and metrics-based economic paradigm shifts are needed as well. Monetary reformers in the USA (www.monetary.org, The Money Fix), Europe (Positive Money, Green Money Working Group, Money and Sustainability) are now pointing to needed re-design of money-creation and credit-allocation and haircuts needed to write-down the mountains of un-repayable debts choking these economies. Beyond left and right and economics from laissez faire Austrians to Keynesians, economic policies based on such theory-induced blindness must accept that money is not wealth but the accounting metric we use to track the real economies of human energy, talent, ingenuity in using Nature's wealth and resources. Our future lies beyond digging up the earth and, instead, locking up and harvesting ever more efficiently than plants the daily free photons showering our planet from the sun." (http://seekingalpha.com/article/874111-book-reviews-the-new-new-deal-is-green)



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