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11/24/2010 07:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Yale Political Union debates Senator John Kerry on "Resolved: America should lead the world in environmental policy"

On Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 the Yale Political Union debated "Resolved: America should lead the world in environmental policy" with Senator John Kerry . This post contains speeches made by members of the YPU.

Speeches on the Affirmative:

1st Affirmative Speech, by David Kohn, a senior in the Independent Party.

Thank you mister speaker. I liked Senator Kerry's points this evening, however want to take them a step further. Renewable energy and investing in the environment is not about environmental policy, or not just about environmental policy. It is about the next industrial revolution. There is a reason I brought up Mr. Watt and the farmer with the mules, it is because we are on the verge of the next industrial revolution. Renewable energy has the possibility of making energy cheaper. Our cost targets for solar should not be coal, they should be ten percent of coal. It is not even close. We have hundreds of times the supply of renewable energy hitting us in the face over the course of a year than we have total left over the course of ten years than we have total left over of fossil fuel energy supplies in the world. The order of magnitude difference is basically comparable to the difference in energy that was available to human beings when we had fire and pack animals versus steam engines and oil. The changes that have happened since the Industrial Revolution were caused by cheap energy. If we want to be in on the ground floor, if we want to be the equivalent of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, we need to get in on it. So I'm tired of the global warming debate, I'm tired of talking bout the science and caring what you think. If you want to be as stubborn as a mule, you can be, I don't care. Keep doing it.

But let's talk about environmental policy that we can agree on. At it's heard, environmental policy is completely non-controversial, unless you're a sociopath or a really rampant libertarian -but that might be redundant anyway. Environmental policy is simply saying businesses and other people should have to pay for and probably not kill fishes, people, make our river acidic, put heavy metals in places they really shouldn't be, like in our drinking water. And, the reason that it is at all controversial is because it costs a lot to deal with. And the reason it costs a lot to deal with is because of energy costs. The world has a fixed amount of almost everything. In term of matter, nothing really leaves and nothing really comes in. Energy is the only thing the Earth is a flow system for. Energy is the only renewable resource, it is the only the we get a lot of, the only thing were the supply is effectively infinite. So the ideal environmental policy let's us deal with everything, reduces cost of energy tremendously. Now what I want to tell you is that the supply of renewable energy is far, far higher than we've been led to believe, and possible reductions in cost are far, far greater than what we could ever think of. Our supply, in terms of generating capacity, we have about 15 terawatts of generating capacity. The amount of solar energy that hits the earth in a year is equivalent to about nine thousand terawatts of generating capacity. The amount of wind energy, which is also solar energy, is equivalent to about nine hundred terawatts of energy. Now, obviously not all of this is recoverable, we only need a small fraction.

And this is the second thing here. So I'm an engineer, and this speech could be subtitled "why you should be an environmental engineer, too" or "why I am an environmental engineer." But let's look at this from an engineer's perspective. I want to tell you how silly ore energy system is right now. Here's how we've designed our energy system. Our energy comes from the sun, all the energy we get comes form the sun. So what we have now is three hundred million years ago energy from the sun hits the earth, grass takes it and turns it into some sugar or some other usable form and then maybe that grass gets buried or maybe a dinosaur eats the grass, maybe a dinosaur comes and eats the other dinosaur, and then that dinosaur happens to get buried. So we just have to hope that that dinosaur or grass gets buried under the right amount of rock, and gets crushed with the right pressure so it forms coal or oil and then we have to drill down two thousand feet and pump up the oil or natural gas or dig the coal up. And then we burn that and we use that energy to turn a generator that turns into electricity. So, then turn generator we get electricity. So we have the dinosaur and hope model of getting electricity.

Or we have the ten times the entire amount of dinosaurs and hope that we have less is hitting us every year in the face coming from the sun. Where we just stick something out there and say sun, electricity. So are we idiots? Are the people who say, drill baby drill, it's all right here, I say, God, it's hitting you in the face. Panel, baby, panel! Come on!

So please, for the sake of all of us, let's get this next industrial revolution started. Become an environmental engineering major. Thank you.