June 27 2012

Private Innovation and Public Pressure Can Be Key to Environmental Progress

Carrie L. Lukas

You don’t hear much anymore about plans to cap carbon emissions, force companies to trade carbon credits, or create a carbon tax. It may be that’s because Americans are increasingly (and rightfully) skeptical about the idea that man-made global warming is “settled science” and a threat to mankind.  It may also be because of the European Union’s struggles with such a cap-and-trade system, or simply that in a time of prolonged economic agony, Americans just aren’t so concerned that it may (or may not) be a degree or two warmer at the end of the century.

Yet that doesn’t mean that Americans are indifferent to the fate of the environment and even to the cause of reducing carbon emissions. 

I thought of this when I saw a new website showing some of the many ways that silcones—which are made with the elements silicon and oxygen—are used in a huge variety of products and materials that Americans encounter every day.  It’s not enough that they are malleable, hold their shape, and resistant to heat and cool.  They are also good for the environment!  And there’s a whole snazzy video montage describing how the use of silcones helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Perhaps this is industry heading off potential regulators, but I imagine a big part of this effort is to build good will with the public.  And that’s a good thing.  Much better to have the public hold companies and industries accountable—rewarding them for taking measures to reduce any negative environmental impact—than to have a raft of regulations and one-size-fits-all rules that end up being costly for business (and ultimately for everyone else) and  that can even backfire in terms of advancing environmental causes.

Americans value the environment.  That means that companies and entrepreneurs that develop environmental-friendly products are going to benefit in the marketplace, which is ultimately the best way to encourage environmental progress without sacrificing economic growth and a high standard of living for people around the globe today.

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