2009 List: Cleaning House 2009 List: Cleaning House
The Planet

2009 List: Cleaning House

by Bryan Walsh

January 4, 2009

Ten game-changers that will affect the environment this year.

1 Lieberman-Warner ReduxEnvironmentalists were chagrined when America's Climate Security Act-the first national cap-and-trade bill to reach a full vote in the Senate-was defeated in June. With a new president who supports cap and trade, supporters will surely take another shot in 2009-but a comatose economy won't make their mission any easier.2 Eco-CheapGoing green has usually meant spending more green-just check your bill after a trip to Whole Foods. But soon, smart businesses will push products that help us save money, not just guilt. Take Payless ShoeSource: In April, the store will release an eco-friendly line made from organic cotton and recycled rubber, costing around $30 a pair.
3 Who Killed the SUV?SUV owners must feel like dinosaurs right after the asteroid hit. Due to a tanking economy and soaring gas prices, Chrysler, Ford, and GM-all of which benefited from the SUV rage of the 1990s-are perilously close to bankruptcy. GM's oldest factory will build its last SUV in December, switching to more efficient cars.4 The Green DealThe idea of environmental protection and economic growth as mutually exclusive is coming to an end, thanks to Van Jones and Tom Friedman. They argue that a government stimulus package-a kind of New Deal-could kick-start the renewable-power industry and green building, leading to millions of green-collar jobs.5 Plug-ins Plug InElectric cars are nothing new, but with gas unlikely to ever return to SUV-friendly levels, expect 2009 to mark the year when cars start plugging in. The all-electric Tesla Roadster is already available for those with a spare $100,000, and both GM and Toyota will begin to offer a few plug-in versions of their hybrids.6 The Green BacklashAfter being liked by everyone not named George W. Bush, the environmental movement may be headed for a fall, with companies less concerned about their carbon footprint when bankruptcy looms. But that might not be altogether a bad thing-a shake-up could leave the fittest green businesses and ideas thriving. And we'll still have Leo DiCaprio.7 The End of EthanolCorn ethanol always had more to do with politics than the environment, and the sudden crash in corn prices and bad press for biofuels could finally wipe out ethanol. Thankfully, another fuel is ready to take its place: algae. The upshot? It doesn't compete with food for fuel, and can be raised just about anywhere.8 Green HawksA group of conservatives are demanding an ambitious alternative-energy policy. Less concerned with saving the whales than saving the hundreds of billions we now spend on crude from hostile regimes, green hawks will broaden the coalition for climate-change action beyond the boundaries of the Sierra Club.9 Green NIMBYismAmerican environmentalism began as an effort to protect the nation's wilderness from development. But if we're truly serious about scaling up wind farms and solar fields, we may need to impinge on parks and other protected lands. The balance between conservation and the need for cleaner power will pit green against green.10 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference In CopenhagenIf the international community fails to meet its deadline on a new climate deal that sets clear targets for short- and long-term carbon reduction, we could be back to zero when Kyoto expires in 2012. The X factor is the United States-a new administration will have fewer than 11 months to prep for success or failure at Copenhagen in December.

Clarence Jones, former advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the state of the planet:

The extent to which we can play a role in advancing the interest of the state of the planet will depend on the extent to which we can clearly mobilize the best resources of our people, and one of the things that will contribute to that mobilization is living in a society of 300 million people in which the talent of every segment of the population is encouraged to grow, to blossom, and to soar like an eagle. You can't do that in a country of 300 million people if a significant part of your time is spent on this foolishness called racism, or if a significant part of your time is spent considering whether A should be allowed to marry B.
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2009 List: Cleaning House