Monday, October 20, 2008

Economic slowdown and the environment

How will the global economic slowdown affect the environment?

We've already seen a significant drop in oil prices... this is not good news for the environment, because high gas prices serve as a strong incentive to find a cheaper alternative fuel. What will happen to the push for alternatives? If oil prices stay low, will we see a return to gas-hungry vehicles?

Treehugger.com also says it's not looking good in terms of industrial pollution.

On the other side of the coin, if consumers have less money, they'll certainly travel less, which means lower emissions. Travel and tourism forecasts for the Asian market and the Caribbean for 2009 are gloomy. More localized vacations (and consumption in general) would seem to lead to lower emissions.

Moving to macro-level issues, the EU has stated that it will not abandon its green goals despite the economic slowdown.

Here in the US, a lot will of course depend on who is elected president, but its easy to assume that given the current state of the economy, environmental concerns and spending may take a back seat for a while.

Thoughts?

3 comments:

steve burke said...

There are a lot of issues to be addressed there, but I think it is important that we consider the value of moving to alternative energy resources. If we continue our dependency on oil we are going to be doomed economically, technologically, environmentally, and put ourselves in risk with respect to our national security. We cannot afford to continue to rely on this finite resource, and especially not from foreign countries that control the supply and that we don’t necessarily have the best relationships with. There is no other choice at this point than to begin an alternative energy revolution, and private industry is leading the way. Unfortunately, the missing link here is that there has to be governmental legislation making the final overarching push to make the alternative energy transition happen. It is going to require large infrastructure changes, subsidies to different resources of clean energy, and funding for research and development among other things. I truly believe when this happens, and I do think it will, not only will we become more environmentally sustainable, but we have an opportunity to become technological leaders certain fields of alternative energy, and if we actually start to produce things in this country again I would predict our economy stabilizes and the value of the dollar will increase. We no longer make the things the rest of the world wants, and if we can design and manufacture the leading products of the alternative energy industry we can once again become a world leader in status and economic strength. It’s not as though this could happen tomorrow, but the possibility is there, and I think enough American’s want it to happen to make it happen. The fact that oil has come back down is an unfortunate immediate road bump, but this Friday OPEC countries are meeting to consider cutting back production which would raise price, and even if the price does not go down I have faith that the next president will be conscious enough of our current worldly state that they will devote themselves to an alternative energy transformation.

Whitney Knapp said...

I dont know how much the economy will decrease the attention paid to the environment. I think that even though gas prices are decreasing, people are still driving less because they can't afford to take long vacations.

I also think that especially where fuel is concerned, there has been such a huge push over the past year to try to find alternative fuels, and be smarter about fuel economy. This probably won't change.

Even with lower gas prices, the fact that the economy isn't doing so well means people still want to find cheaper ways to drive, so they are thinking about purchasing a car that gets 30+ mpg instead of an SUV getting 20 mpg.

This summer caused such a huge scare where gas is concerned in this county, I don't think the economy will change the push to find better alternatives and create cars with higher fuel efficiency.

Justin Shepard said...

If History has anything to say about what could happen over the next few years, we will soon go back to driving our big American vehicles. Back in the 70s during the gas crises, the automobile industry was forced to look into making electric vehicles as well as hault production of 8 cylinder personal vehicles. But slowly we crept back into our gas guzzlers, because in the land of opportunity there is nothing that can take us Americans away from buying the biggest, baddest, most wasteful stuff availible. Over the past year or two there has been an impressive green revolution in our country and the world. But I cant help but think that it was all largely influenced by increased gas prices, and so if prices do go back down then a lot of our progress and environmental concern may be forgotten.