It’s time again for our 3 Questions series, where we ask industry experts about their organization’s environmental programs, opinions on environmental policy, and how they reduce their own environmental footprint.
This week, we spoke with Jamie Johnson, social entrepreneur at Verde Sustainable Solutions, to get his perspective on the environmental industry. Jamie has a background in environmental consulting, developing sustainability software for the iPad, and teaching. He’s run his own environmental technology company for two years, and before that worked in various capacities in the sustainability field. He holds an MS in Environmental Science Policy from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Biology from Bradley University.
Q: Do you believe policy will help drive the green economy, or do you think the government should leave it up to private businesses and market demand?
A: Both are essential to tackle the large environmental problems that we have before us. Government has a key role for certain policies, such as high-speed rail infrastructure and stability in energy markets. Ignoring the role that government plays in sustainability is not realistic, especially since the military is the largest consumer of renewable power in the world.
However, private business will also play key roles in the green economy. My company recently released the Verde iPad app, an inexpensive way for consumers to conduct an energy audit on the iPad. We need innovation like this from millions of companies to increase energy efficiency, renewable power options and transportation options. We cannot rely on government alone to be the source of innovation, but they must set policies to encourage it.
Q: Are we doing enough to encourage the use of renewable energy through subsidies and incentives? If not, what more can be done?
A: Government has done enough in the form of subsidies and incentives for renewable energy. What they have yet to do is increase the price on carbon to level the playing field between traditional and renewable energy.
Historically, the idea of a carbon tax has been unpopular in our country. However, with our increasing deficit problem, a carbon tax could bring in valuable revenue to our government and make renewable energy more competitive as opposed to the current tax incentives for alternative energy sources. I think that after the 2013 elections, we may see some resurgence of interest in a carbon tax and the long-term benefits it would provide for both our economy and environment.
Q: In your opinion, which industry sector has the greatest opportunity to impact the future of sustainable business?
A: While I am not personally involved in this sector, I think battery storage capabilities will have the greatest opportunity to impact sustainability. I find this space exciting, not only because of the transportation issue, but also for the impact it will have on smart grid independent energy sources.