Editorial: Market forces (other than raw greed) will bail out mankind

Column By John Young

It’s going to be all right.

My margarine tells me so.

It’s more than margarine. It’s Vicks VapoRub and oat milk. And more.

As we enter a new year, a few things have got me thinking mankind and our planet aren’t doomed. Indeed, better things are ahead.

Why? Well, first, my margarine.

I’m a toast guy. The plant-based spread we discovered this year at the supermarket is a revelation – great in every way, from taste to healthfulness.

Vicks? It’s the furthest thing from new. What’s revelatory is that in a 21st Century lab some Einstein fashioned it into a stick form to rub on chests and under nostrils. No goop on the fingers. In laboratory speak, that’s one big “D’oh!”

Oat milk? I don’t drink it. But increasing numbers do. The varieties of this and other healthful dairy alternatives have taken off like wildfire.

“Whatever the market will bear.” That’s what free-market mavens say. Well, for some time the market has groaned in search of better things, healthier things.

Like those things that would help our planet survive, and we along with it.

Delicious plant-based margarine is only a thinly layered example of the optimism on my plate.

The main course? Consider: In 2022, many experts predicted a “carbon bomb” would beset the planet as people emerged from pandemic cautions.

It didn’t happen. Sure, we kept polluting, but not at the rate many expected. The International Energy Agency said that carbon emissions are on track to increase by 1 percent this year, considerably less than many projected.

The key reason is the increased demand for alternative energy and increasingly competitive prices for it.

Yes. We’re talking about a market for stuff that’s good for us.

Renewables led by wind and solar have had massive growth. The agency says these sources grew by 700 terawatts this year. How much is that? More than what is used to power Canada for a year.

E&E News reports that with the growth of renewable sources, “Global emissions are likely to plateau in coming years,” with the rate of decarbonization “likely to outpace economic growth” as technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps become even more cost-efficient.

Yes, things are scary in these times: So many indicators bear down on our earthly station — from mega-storms to vanishing glaciers and tapped-out reservoirs, waterways, and aquifers.

But international players are being serious about climate again, led by the United States and Joe Biden. Thankfully, Donald Trump is in a position only to hack up his own golf course.

More importantly, young Americans, young Europeans, young Australians, and young Asians — get what’s at stake and what must be done. For one, they are not as in love as their elders with automobiles. Pavement isn’t their lifeblood. They use their feet. They use mass transit.

But if the subject is cars: Demand for electric vehicles, with Biden and Congress giving a major push, is bearing encouraging fruit.

Science Daily reports a breakthrough in electric vehicle battery design for a 10-minute charge time for the typical battery.

Like dairy alternatives, record-breaking charge times and longer travel ranges are all because of market demand.

And how about this? Increasing the use of electric cars not only helps the environment but, as Axios reports, can supply electricity back to the electric grid in times of strain.

Don’t ask me how that works. I also don’t know how that exceedingly creamy and perfect spread for my toast is made. I’m just the beneficiary of people smarter than I am.

Good things are happening. Healthful things are happening. I recently joined a community solar association which saves on my electric bill and eases some of the pressure my existence exerts on the planet.

Sure. Scary things are happening. For one, the marionettes of Big Oil and Big Coal plot to return to writing our environmental laws.

But forces of the market, and of smart people – particularly young people — wanting to do what’s right for the planet and healthful for us, are changing things and will continue.

We are going to survive. After all, what’s a market for?

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.