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If we're gonna go green, go big.

Lately, it seems, everything is going "green," and it is now suddenly trendy to be an environmentalist. I get e-mails from people with a little note that says, "Save the planet: Please don't print this message."

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I am scheduled to be a speaker at a conference for about the fifth year in a row, only this time, in a bow once again to the planet, they have banned any and all paper handouts. There was an advertisement in a recent edition of the Rocky Mountain News from Allstate insurance extolling me to protect the woodchuck pictured by signing up for discounts and a donation to carbonfund.org for switching to electronic statements rather than paper (odd that the ad was in print; those must be ink-stained "good hands").

There is an explosion in "green" cars and "green" buildings, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase "carbon footprint" this year I'd have more money than the Powerball winner.

And, yeah, there's global warming and everyone is worried, and it makes sense to do one's part, however small. I am an inveterate recycler, I have switched out all of my light bulbs for the squiggly low-power ones; I watch my water consumption; I try very hard to buy local produce and such. Every little bit helps, and I am all about fostering more good-deed-doing in my fellow citizens.

But I think we need a little perspective here. What with both China and India growing their populations and their Western-style economies at a brisk, double-digit pace, the fact is that the "greenhouse" effect from the burning of fossil fuels and other wasteful, harmful human behaviors is increasing at a pace that is beginning to alarm scientists along with everyone else. The environmental movement may begin with each of us taking small steps, but it is also going to take some adroit international political skills to stem the tide.

I think in the shorter term, say 10 to 15 years, we Americans should look at it less as an environmental movement and more as an issue of sustainability and political destiny. In other words, we should conserve and go "green" to excess, until it hurts and then more, but not to save the planet, which we can't do alone in any case. Rather we should do this to completely rid ourselves of the dependence on foreign oil. That in and of itself will make a strong political statement, particularly with the OPEC countries, and ultimately strengthen our economy.

To get there we have to be tough. I was surprised to learn that the vaunted "Gas Guzzler" tax, for instance, applies to cars with a combined fuel economy exceeding 22.5 miles- per-gallon--and that all light trucks and SUVs are exempt. For all practical purposes, therefore, there is no Gas Guzzler tax. We should raise the standard and broaden the reach immediately--all trucks and SUVs, and the new standard for next year is 25 mpg, then it goes up yearly from then on.

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The tax--which should be paid annually, not one time at purchase--should be collected and then used for specific purposes: to wit, to fund research into battery technology, alternative fuel technology, and to fund the rapid expansion of alternative fueling stations throughout the country. Use the tax to fund more ways to reduce dependence on foreign oil until there is no more tax collected.

And why stop with cars. Houses and commercial office buildings are huge consumers of foreign oil, or electricity generated from it.

I also think that it shouldn't be just penalties, as a tax alone would be. We could combine the penalty with a tax credit reward for those, in both automobile and buildings, who go above and beyond the standard in a healthful direction.

This would all be a pain for a while, no question, but there would be both immediate penalties and rewards that would "green" us all up rather quickly. And, of course, beyond the personal rewards garnered, the country itself would benefit overall. Such an energy policy would do nothing if not make our economy strong, build jobs and give America clear global leadership in a desired arena for decades to some.

The world has always followed us anyway, so let's lead it in the right direction.

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Read this and Rundles' blog, Executive Wheels, at cobizmag.com or e-mail him at jrundles@cobizmag.com
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Title Annotation:RUNDLES WRAP-UP
Comment:If we're gonna go green, go big.(RUNDLES WRAP-UP)
Author:Rundles, Jeff
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Words:750
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