Trickle-up energy innovation

The developing world may save us from ourselves, according to this post on a high-powered energy crisis confab featuring Al Gore.
Not that there’s anything new about us needing help from the 3rd world to stop global warming — it gets reported ad nauseam that things like China’s “coal-fired power plant a day” and the emergence of a middle class in many developing countries will only accelerate global warming.

This post was nice because it featured people saying developing countries aren’t just part of the problem — they might create the answers we need. To wit:

Instead of the usual “trickle-down” of technology from first world to third, he [Fisk Johnson of SC Johnson] said, his labs have discovered that in many instances, the trickle flows in the opposite direction. One example: cheap, natural plant-based pesticides that SC Johnson is harvesting in Vietnam. “We have technologies from the developing world that we’re bringing down to the developed world,” he said. SC Johnson also has a special lab in China that deconstructs the company’s household products and strips them to their bare essentials, keeping only the qualities customers want most. That takesĀ out unnecessary chemicals and ingredients which, he says, usually makes the end product cheaper.

At the end of the post, Gore is cited saying a joint U.S./China cap-and-trade emissions policy would mean “we’re really off to the races” in combatting global warming. I’m scratching my head here, since you would think he would push for a carbon tax applied broadly. That would really force companies to change their behavior. True, the political stomach to get a carbon tax through Congress probably doesn’t exist. But Gore doesn’t have to worry about Congress; he should be able to tell it like it is. Cap-and-trade gets the engine going, but it’s more like a Sunday drive in the country.

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