Credit crunch? Falling fuel prices? How clean energy will thrive

The new rap on the clean energy revolution needed to drive the American economy to the next level is that it will fall victim to one (or both) of two factors: the credit crunch or falling fuel prices.

But that analysis ignores the fact that that there are huge market forces at work today that will not vanish overnight in the face of short-term slumps in the available of capital or decreased oil prices.


In fact, Dr. Bill Chameides, the dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, argues in a recent blog that we are actually changing the way we think about energy ... and how to price it:

"The bottom line is that the apparent competitive advantage of fossil fuels is to some extent a reflection of a distortion in the marketplace rather that a true price differential. To remove that distortion, the environmental and health-care costs of using fossil fuels must be internalized into the price for the energy generated from these fuels ...  Once that is done - and I am not alone in thinking that it will happen -- renewable energy may look to be a good bet to investors even with falling fossil fuel costs.

In fact, as my colleague Pete Altman blogged earlier this week, there is every reason to believe that the new green economy will flourish even as the "old" economy continues to stumble.

For added evidence, read the California-focused study by David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the UC Berkeley, to see that there are huge energy efficiencies that can be made that will mean hundreds of thousands of net new jobs when extended nationwide.

The good news is that those efficiencies and new jobs could be achieved in other states - regardless of how weakly the old economy may be doing.