I have believed for a long time that high energy prices would ultimately be good for the American economy. I generally keep an ear to the ground for new developments in renewable energy technology, and new products that take advantage of alternative energy sources. I recently learned of a small town that has gotten in front of the alternative energy movement, Sweetwater, Texas. This has completely changed the outlook of the community. Ten years ago this was a town that teens left as soon as they could because Sweetwater offered no future for them. The town decided to install wind turbines. Today Sweetwater Texas is running on green energy.
This did more than just revitalize their economy. They needed workers to install and maintain the turbines, so in 2007 the community college in Sweetwater launched the first two-year program on wind energy technology (now there are several around the country). They still have more jobs than they can fill, so people are moving there to find work. Home prices have gone up and new homes are being built, which means more construction jobs. America’s premier wind energy legal seminar, which provides continuing legal education to attorneys, is held each year in Sweetwater. The mayor has been interviewed by the Discovery Channel.
Do you see what this did for them? Sweetwater didn’t just revitalize their community or economy. By whole heartedly embracing a new technology this tiny town has become one of the focal points of the industry. Nolan county, home to Sweetwater, is the number one market for wind energy in America. This has raised the heads, the civic pride of not just Sweetwater, but all of west Texas. They have hope. This is the perfect example of what I had in mind when I wrote that high gas prices would be good for America.
I believe this is a good plan for America. We’ve done this before. Many times. We’re kind of known for it, in fact. Our economy is in a slump and people are angry about jobs going overseas. The reality is that we can do something about it. I happen to be a proponent of renewable energy, but the point I’m trying to make is larger than that. Let’s not sit and stew about jobs going overseas. Stop trying to bail out companies that can’t produce a profit. That’s just prolonging the pain. The way to produce great jobs for decades is to create new industries and dominate them. Just like we did with telephones, and cars, and aircraft, and photocopiers, and computers, etc. We’re innovators.
That’s the point I want to make. New technologies have the potential to turn our economy around. Alternative energy is probably the strongest candidate, because the need is significant. But, our hope does not have to be pinned on energy. There are literally dozens of industries capable of this. Financial planning is probably low on the list.
What are the choices? Within energy generation there’s wind, hydropower, solar, geothermal, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and biofuels. Once all of this energy is generated it’ll have to be either stored or transferred, which leads to jobs in battery technology and smart power grids. As we transition away from oil our cars, trucks, trains, busses, boats, planes and factories will need to be transformed. It’ll help the effort if our homes, offices and municipal buildings consume less energy.
If we go in this direction, every sector of the economy will be positively affected. There is so much opportunity that its just crazy that we’re crying about unemployment. Yes, it will require changing, we’ll have to reeducate ourselves in order to take advantage of this, but that has always been inevitable. We were going to have to change no matter what, it was folly to think otherwise. Once again, I submit that we as Americans have reinvented ourselves many times in the past.
Sweetwater is an example worthy of consideration because they have chosen to get in front of new technology. They aren’t bailing out companies that can’t find a way to be profitable, they’re building schools to educate new workers and new homes for them to live in. I applaud you Sweetwater, thanks for giving us an example to follow.