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Fueling a Competitive Economy
Joseph J. Romm, research scholar at Rocky Mountain Institute, Old Snowmass, Colo., is author of The Once and Future Superpower: How To Restore America's Economic, Energy, and Environmental Security. Amory B. Lovins, the Institute's Director of Research, consults widely on energy strategy for utilities, manufacturers and governments. This work was funded by I. G. Ventures and various foundations including Laucks and General Service.See more by Joseph J. RommSee more by Amory B. Lovins
Profiting from Energy
AMERICA’S ENERGY and economic policies remain tied to Cold War concepts of national security. For nearly fifty years all of America’s vast resources were directed toward one purpose: containing the Soviet threat of global communism. But the need for a military-oriented industrial strategy fell with the Berlin Wall; long subordinated economic, energy and environmental concerns have risen to the top of the national agenda. Integrating those elements with a refocused military strategy can create a coherent American approach to national and global security for the post-Cold War world: one that is not costly but profitable, and not centrally planned but market-oriented.
The most fruitful starting point for boosting America’s economy and reordering its priorities is energy. Wise energy policy creates both a healthier economy and healthier environment. But energy policy does not work in isolation. Only in combination with farsighted economic, environmental and military policies can it help secure America’s global position for the 21st century. Taken together, those interconnected policies constitute a new and comprehensive approach to U.S. security, defined in the broad sense of sustaining and improving the quality of life of Americans.
America remains an enormously wealthy nation. Reordering priorities and redirecting resources would be enough to ensure that a new national strategy does not require higher taxes for the vast majority of Americans. A coherent national approach combining energy, economic and environmental security creates higher-paying jobs and puts more money in the hands of consumers and businesses. Sensible energy policy reduces the civilian and military costs and the risks of importing foreign oil and frees up huge amounts of domestic capital. Sensible economic policy guides more of that capital, as well as some shifted from military restructuring, toward investments that enhance the nation’s long-term competitiveness. The two policies together reduce the costs of unsustainable resource depletion and environmental damage. The result, an "industrial ecosystem," would make America a more efficient and competitive manufacturer.