Dear Mr. President
Below is a letter I sent earlier this week to President Obama about my idea to create a cabinet-level “Secretary of Sustainability” who would spearhead America’s leadership in environmentalism. In the future, I plan to write another post regarding how I envision digital media technologies will fit within the larger clean technology industry.
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500-0001
Dear Mr. President:
I recently saw an interview with Jeffrey Immelt which got me thinking about how the U.S. can lead the world in alleviating the current global energy and environmental problems. The interviewer asked GE’s Chairman and CEO “why doesn’t America have a government that can just put all the right policies in place to shape the energy and environmental markets?”
Immelt asserted that “if you asked the utilities and big manufacturers what they would most like, it would be for the president to stand up and say: ‘By 2025 we are going to produce this much coal, this much natural gas, this much wind, this much solar, this much nuclear, and nothing is going to stand in the way.’ Well, you’d have about thirty days of complaining and crying, and then people across the energy industry would just stand up and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. President, now let’s go do it.’ And we would go out and do it.”
I know Immelt’s proclamation is unrealistic within the constitutional controls of our democracy, but the environmental challenges facing the globe are so profound and so imminent that we cannot wait for traditional free-market forces to alleviate the issues. Instead, we need Washington to mandate immediate changes and foster the ideal market conditions for innovation. Then, the government should get out of the way and let the natural force of the American capitalist system work.
To accomplish this, I suggest you create a cabinet-level position dedicated to synchronizing the disparate energy and environmental efforts which already exist within our government. This “Secretary of Sustainability” would combine our environmental interests in commerce, energy, defense, international relations, and even education and housing. By centralizing the sustainability efforts already performed within these other agencies, America can systematically become the leader in the most important industry of the 21st century, clean technology.
With China, India, and other developing countries continuing to employ dirty and antiquated methods for powering their economies, they are almost daring us to lead sustainable growth. Some officials from these nations whine that the U.S. enjoyed 150 years of dirty industrial expansion so now it’s their turn to pollute. Although the Secretary of Sustainability will work with Secretary Clinton to change these types of attitudes abroad, temporary delays by other countries to “go green” will give us an even bigger head start. A head start if we act now, that is.
We live in the most entrepreneurial nation on the planet and it will take only a few years to invent the clean power and energy efficiency tools that the rest of the world will need to avoid choking on pollution if the government provides the right incentives and penalties. We can then export these technologies which will guarantee high-value jobs for our children while improving our national security by eliminating reliance on foreign imports like oil.
Although this will be a challenging task, I urge you to appoint a Secretary of Sustainability to ensure America’s future.
Michael B. Katz