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What's Next: Dave Roberts

For the past few years, greens have been engaged in a torrent of talk about urgent problems and available solutions. That talk has built up behind the dam of inaction, and cracks are showing. The dam has sprung leaks; 2007 will be the year the torrent breaks through, first in trickles and then in floods. The U.S. will be carried on the current ... oh, hell, I can't keep this metaphor going.

Anyway, 2007 is the year of execution. Three factors are coming together:
1. Public interest in energy and climate issues is at an historic high.
2. The U.S. Congress has just gone through the biggest shake-up in over 20 years.
3. The global business community has anticipated our energy-constrained future and is responding aggressively.

Combined, these factors will translate a great deal of potential energy into kinetic. As I see it, the primary job of greens now is to try to channel all that energy to maximum benefit. Just as we see the enormous changes on the horizon, so too do many powerful players who see their place in the world threatened. There will be much jockeying for influence and spoils. It's up to greens to unite behind a few key messages, to cut through the clutter.

I'll get specific: there's going to be a lot of institutional weight and money put behind coal gasification and sequestration, biofuels, nuclear power, and hydrogen cars. None of them are intrinsically evil, but plenty of alternatives that get far less attention have far higher EROI. Greens should counterbalance big money influence by stressing, above all, efficiency. Also worthy of greater attention are combined heat and power (CHP), solar, wind, geothermal, green building, plug-in hybrids, electrical grid enhancements, and good old-fashioned conservation.

I know the green movement is not really a movement at all, and coordinating its diverse constituencies is like herding cats. But I'd to see all of us thinking a little bit less about the ideal there and a little more about the road from here to there. Even if it means compromises and suboptimality, I propose a strategy of getting done what can get done -- coupled with faith that there will be a great deal more in that category soon enough.

Dave Roberts is a staff writer at Grist

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