Numerous voices on political and financial scenes argue that we need to invest more money to curb climate change. Recently in the US, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) labeled emissions of carbon dioxide a health hazard for humans, which may open up the path for more government funding. Many environmental organizations, politicians put forward arguments in favor of stronger action.
But what are we going to do with more money?
The most probable response will be increased investments in research and development of clean technologies. In Europe the EU invests heavily in the early phases of such development projects. When the EU doubles the funding, the number of projects that are funded increases dramatically. There is no strategy behind the funding. Research into ethanol, biogas, methanol, and a number of other fuels are all funded in parallel, despite the fact that the transportation systems of the future will become more cost effective if we develop a small number of fuels and expand this on a large scale.
The US has a history of running successful large scale programs. The Apollo program, and the space program are cases in point, but also The Marshall Plan, and the transformation of US industry to war production during the Second World War. If The United States implements a well funded fast track program like it has the experience and the resources to do, this will leave Europe far behind in the global “clean tech race” and in clean tech markets. Europe needs to get its act together. Frankly, I feel certain that the US will invest its money in a clever way. The high level proponents of increased investments have just not shown us all their cards yet.
We not only need more money. We need a strategy and a plan that will show us how we can invest the money in the wisest possible way. The best possible way is not to invest in a very large number of research projects in their early phases. We need now to invest large sums of money in the expansion of the use of the clean technologies that are already available to us, and invest in the further development of a number of new technologies that show the biggest promise for the future.
We need a strategy, plan and managed change, and all of this needs to be based on a sound analysis of the most important aspects of the transformation. We cannot do everything at once. We need to go about this cleverly, and the less time we have at our disposal, the better we need to plan the programs that need to follow.