Opportunities to create a green economy

The United States must actively change must of its behavior to reduce carbon emissions, but those changes actually could contribute to a much healthier economy and planet.

Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, was the keynote speaker at Southface’s annual Visionary Dinner on March 11 at the Georgia Aquarium.

Hendricks has been focusing on the issues of climate change, energy independence, environmental protection and economic policy in Washington D.C. Those policies are now in vogue in the Obama administration.

Among the changes that need to occur: we need to cut the number of vehicle miles we travel by 2 billion miles (at a time when those miles increase each year; we have to build transit products; we have to build solar panels and wind turbines to promote alternative modes of energy; and we need greener buildings and lifestyles.

“We are at a fork in the road,” Hendricks said. “Inaction and doing what we do now leads us to a global climate crisis. The other path is just as exciting, living in a carbon-constrained world. We can accept the climate crisis or we can build a green economy.”

Hendricks believes that we can create a vibrant economy by investing in green energy. The United States has been a leader in technology in the building of solar power plants, wind turbines and lithium batteries for electric cars. He mentioned the Chevy Volt plug-in car, which could be the resurgence of Detroit.

The planet needs these technologies,” Hendricks said. “This is a new opportunity to grow businesses and put people to work.”

The administration’s recovery package provides a great opportunity to jumpstart a green economy.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work waiting to be done,” Hendricks said. “This is a huge opportunity to build entirely new sectors of the economy.”

Create green roofs, build more energy efficient homes and office buildings, invest in alternative transportation and develop greener communities. Public policies can help change behavior. And Hendricks said these policies have bipartisan support.

“We need to find a way to get people excited about the opportunity,” Hendricks said. “We need to capture American entrepreneurship.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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