Kellogg speaker urges green revolution

Lauren Kelleher

Imagine the world before the Industrial Revolution, the advent of fossil fuel technology and the resulting infrastructure as it exists today.

This, said Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, is the state that energy must revert to globally, through a “green revolution.”

Mandelbaum discussed “How green will our future be?” from the perspective of economic and international relations implications as part of the Kellogg School of Management’s Distinguished Lecture Series on Tuesday night at the Donald P. Jacobs Center.

The green revolution, Mandelbaum told about 40 attendees, will be one of the three “greatest socioeconomic changes in the history of the human species.” He placed it alongside the advent of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution that made our world powered by fossil fuels.

The United States “is the only plausible global leader” of this revolution, he said.

One of the main challenges a global green revolution faces is rooted in corporate and political self-interests, which promote a global dependence on the “three fuels from hell: oil, coal and natural gases,” Mandelbaum said.

As the world’s biggest consumer of foreign oil, the U.S. has a “strong geopolitical incentive” to end this dependence, he said. The United States’ main international suppliers of oil – Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela – have international interests “antithetical” to those of the United States.

Mandelbaum also cited the potential for conflict between nations such as the U.S. and China as they find themselves competing for finite oil resources abroad.

The domestic incentive for restricting oil consumption comes from what Mandelbaum said will be an upward trend in oil prices.

“More and more money is leaving the pocketbooks of oil consumers … and (it) dampens economic activity,” he said.

A more significant gas tax for consumers would decrease foreign oil dependency while simultaneously lining U.S. coffers for national debt and baby boomers’ Social Security, Mandelbaum said.

Science and economics are too often pitted against each other in the discussion of environmental policy changes, said Mandelbaum, adding that he thinks the U.S. is in a unique position to create green technologies that can potentially bring in revenue.

Colleen Moore, a Weinberg sophomore who attended the lecture, said she was glad to hear Mandelbaum discuss the “science versus economics” component of green policy.

Justin McBride, a first-year Kellogg student, said he was intrigued by Mandelbaum’s lack of support for international policy, like the Kyoto treaty, as a vehicle for global greening.

“It was a nice angle he had, that making technology available globally is more important than managing (a green revolution) from an international treaty standpoint,” McBride said.

It will take patience to make global economies green, Mandelbaum said, and many people are not convinced by the promise of advantageous returns for their grandchildren.

The purveyors of the green revolution will have to change the “human condition in fundamental ways,” replacing a centuries-old infrastructure while continuing our lives now, he said.

“We have to replace the engine of a car while it’s headed full tilt down the highway,” he said.

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