I’ve just finished a handbook for climate action called Rewiring America (also the name of a new nonprofit I’ve founded with clean energy entrepreneur Alex Laskey). You can get your own copy of it at rewiringamerica.org. We’re setting out to prove that electrifying everything will be not be only essential to address climate change, but also good for the economy, the air, our health, and the future.
In the book, co-written with Sam Calisch and Laura Fraser, we approach the climate emergency from a new angle. We look for solutions, not barriers. We outline pathways to success.
We don’t begin with the question of what is politically possible, but ask what is technically necessary to make a climate solution that is also the best economic pathway for a country. We need mobilization of technology, industry, labor, regulatory reform, and critically, finance.
This pathway is technology — agnostic; we have used the test “is it ready and does it work?’’ to understand the best way forward. This pathway is best summarized as electrify everything.
We lean on data and an unprecedented analysis of the U.S. energy economy that allows us to look at the consequences of electrifying everything. Will our lives change? The surprising answer is not a lot. Those things that will change are for the better: cleaner air, cleaner water, better health, cheaper energy, and a more robust grid. We can have pretty much all of the complexity and variety of the American dream, with the same-sized homes and vehicles — and we’ll need less than half the energy we currently use. This is a success story that casts aside trying to “efficiency’’ or “deprive’’ our way to zero emissions.
How do we ensure the lowest cost of energy while electrifying everything? First, we have to rewrite the federal, state, and local rules and regulations that were created for the fossil-fueled world and are preventing the U.S. from having the cheapest electricity ever. Then, we have to finance our transition to a zero-carbon energy system with a low-interest “climate loan.’’ We have precedents and mechanisms for doing this; the U.S. pioneered public-private financing in the past that can help us get the job done today.
The consequence of getting the technology, financing and regulations right is that we can save every family in the U.S. thousands of dollars a year.
We will need to triple the amount of electricity delivered in the U.S. and we’ll discover that the moonshot engineering project we need is a new grid with new operating rules, more like the Internet. We must have “grid neutrality.’’
The industrial mobilization required will mean an effort similar to WWII’s Arsenal of Democracy in size, speed, and scope.
For a world looking to bounce back from a pandemic, there is no other project that would create this many jobs. An analysis shows that there are tens of millions of good paying jobs that will be created in every zip code, suburb, and rural town in the country.
It is by no means easy, but it is still possible. But not for long. Billionaires may dream of escaping to Mars, but the rest of us… we have to stay and fight.
Please check out our handbook for climate action, and plug in to the fight to electrify everything.