Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"The Terminator" understands renewable energy - the rest of the GOP is clueless

In my former (academic) career, I was inviting bids for personal computers for my faculty members. A sales rep from IBM visited the department with a bid of over twice that of a company selling IBM PC "clones". When confronted with the price discrepancy, the IBM guy observed (haughtily) that IBM sells computers and is not selling consumer electronics. We bought the clones. IBM then lost the huge market share to Apple and Dell and others.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is tuned into the tide of history favoring innovation. He uses the fate of IBM as just one example of what happens to companies and institutions when they cling to their business model only to be rolled by creative forces. One might think the GOP, being the self-styled party of good business, would understand that. But, as Schwarzenegger explains, the Republican approach to energy innovation is to cling to fossil fuels. He warns in his CNN op-ed (h/t AZBlueMeanie), that the Republican party might go the way of IBM.

Renewable energy is not a political issue, and it is time Republican leaders acknowledge the truth.

The politicization of clean energy has allowed Democrats to occupy the position of being pro-sun and pro-wind to such an extent that Republicans -- in the eyes of many -- are completely linked with coal and oil. But in fact, the energy revolution underway relies on inherently conservative principles and Republicans should take ownership of clean energy.

History is littered with examples of thought leaders who did not embrace coming technological shifts. The consequence was simple: You get left behind and become less and less relevant.

In the energy arena, are we repeating IBM's mistake on a global scale? We need only look at the data to see the shifts taking place. The cost curves of solar, wind and batteries are falling quicker than those of gas and coal. The solar industry is growing its market share and adding jobs nearly 10 to 20 times faster than the rest of the economy. We have seen this particularly in California.

Republicans run a huge risk of being associated too closely with the old order, just as the IBM board did when it placed its faith in central mainframes. The psychology of such decision-making is well known. It arises from overconfidence in one's own position and something that psychologists refer to as confirmation bias: the tendency to gravitate toward facts that support one's existing viewpoint and ignore those that don't.

Let's avoid the mistakes of IBM or the fate of Kodak by communicating the tremendous opportunities of the energy shift, of responsible enterprise in revitalized markets, wise energy use, jobs growth and individual energy freedom.

Now that would be a bipartisan success story. But I fear the closed echo chamber of the "conservative" media and the right-wing of the Republican party will continue to deny climate change, dismiss clean renewable energy, and drag the rest of us under the bus that is hurtling our way.

Here's a related story at thinkprogress.org courtesy of Blog for Arizona commenter "Cheri."

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