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Jeremy Rifkin on San Antonio, the European Union, and the lessons learned in our push for a planetary-scale power shift

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The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Jeremy Rifkin, Palgrave MacMillan, $27, 291 page


Well you also pointed out in the original master plan that the jobs component was far from inconsequential over that 20-30 year period…
Well it’s massive. It's massive. Because think about the conversion. Here’s Obama talking about mending some bridges — which we better do — and some roads, and putting a little money into the grid. What we're talking about is the complete conversion on the entire infrastructure of every community of the world, meaning Pillar 1. Huge amounts of jobs are in harvesting and moving to renewable energy technology and producing it. Pillar 2, you’ve got to convert every damn building in every community and region into a power plant. That’s 40 years of reconstruction, retrofitting, everything. Pillar 3: Imagine how many jobs you have to create to put actual storage in, hydrogen storage across every part of an infrastructure. Pillar 4: We have to convert the entire power and transmission line, that’s 30 years. Pillar 5: We have to develop logistics and transport that’s completely plug-in to the system. So when you look at what has to be done, it can actually employ two generations between now and 2040 in full employment. But then we have to be able to actually think about public-private partnerships.
Now America’s going the other way, we want government out of this. That’s absurd. The first and second industrial revolutions relied completely on public-private partnership. The Libertarian myth is that the marketplace created it. The market place didn’t underwrite the power utility industry or the auto industry or the oil industry or the interstate highway expansion or the FHA loans that allow people to get homes in the suburbs and commercial incentives that allow depreciation for commercial building. All that was government. So what I am saying here is that the opportunities are really here to create lots of jobs. The coalition we put together in Europe on the ground is quite different from here. Last year, you saw in the book, we mentioned that the UEAPME [European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises], which is the federation of all SMEs [small and medium-sized businesses, or enterprises] in Europe. All the SMEs have come together; they represent almost 65 to 70 percent of the businesses in Europe. … They now are a whole interest group that scales laterally and in our lobby group are moving this in place. Here I don’t know who that group would be, you could have the trade associations, which we are trying to do. But you really need to get small business behind this, and then consumers, and everyone else like we have in Europe, so you have people that are incentivized to move this in terms of mass acceptance. It's a nice challenge.

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