Guest Post: Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit

December 9, 2010

Engineer and Venture capitalist Tom Rand has an upbeat take on where we need to go with Renewable Solutions:

We’ve largely invented what we need to kick the fossil fuel habit. Efficiencies, clean sources and the smart grid are the third industrial revolution.

But we need to create market conditions that deploy clean technology at scale. We need massive capital (trillions) and it needs to move quickly. To do that, we need to shape the market.

These market signals can only come from policy, and policy (in a democracy) can only emerge in the face of a public that demands, or at least accepts, the need for it.  Hence this video. There’s no way to move forward if the public doesn’t believe it’s possible (never mind necessary).

To those that love the free market and shudder at the thought of ‘interfering’ in it: The market is not a natural kind – like a tiger, or a shrub – that operates under some set of natural laws that are best left alone, as the Chicago School argues. The market is more like an iPod – we invented it, and engineered it to our purposes. We invented credit, currency, contract law, exchange rates, banking systems, etc. Now we need to shape the market to enable a low-carbon economy.

Best ideas? Tax-and-dividend to change consumer behaviour and government-backed Green Bonds to generate low-cost debt capital (devil is in the details, see for my version).

Some would accuse a cleantech venture/angel investor of speaking from self-interest. Perhaps, but I put my money where my mouth is because I want to move the needle on carbon.


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