To be sure, the oil industry is important to the U.S. economy as well. And the pharmaceutical industry – particularly branded drugs – is also critical to national economic health. But many of these industries and large swaths of the U.S. economy depend on petroleum, chemical products, and other material produced in a way that creates large amounts of greenhouse gas pollution.
For this reason, climate change is a huge global threat. The changes to life on Earth that would result from that threat would, by itself, be a tremendous disincentive to economic growth. That’s why – even though the Trump administration seeks to make sure that the future of the planet isn’t protected – we need that economic growth.
The productivity gain that the U.S. energy industry is enjoying – because of new technologies like fracking – is providing the world with the opportunity to sustainably use much more of the world’s oil than previously imagined. That offers huge opportunities for the world. The very list of places where there’s a proven potential for immense new development in energy – including places where the cost of energy is reasonably high – is long and it shows no sign of diminishing.
It’s also an economy-boosting opportunity for the U.S.
As researchers have reported, this can only happen if nations act in concert to institute policies that protect the world – as well as their own – from global warming. For example, moves toward change need to be in concert with adjustments to our consumption patterns – with reduced car driving and reduced electricity use – as well as efforts to reduce emissions in sectors like shipping and agriculture.
That helps explain the skepticism that’s been voiced by so many energy executives – from oil company chiefs, to electric car manufacturers, to renewable energy producers. Some do speak up when certain ideas make sense. But most don’t.
This is a problem, because those companies simply aren’t attuned to the vast opportunities that lie ahead for everyone if, together, we act in concert. That means that U.S. firms and private individuals and governments have to invest in the energy sector – and in other industries like water – to keep the world on track for sustainable development and human well-being.
This means that climate change isn’t just a matter of scientific alarmism – as climate change denialists like to caricature it. It’s a matter of well-being, and it’s a matter of the future.
Biotechnology is a matter of well-being, too, but at a larger scale. And biotech’s innovation can make that more sustainable – through not just renewable energy and automation but also through ways of making agricultural products and pharmaceuticals less toxic.
One new way to produce new antibiotics is by turning the genes of the bacteria into what look like living cells – with newly created structures of proteins that are not only meant to grow inside bacteria, but that also act like drugs. In other words, the bacteria will get a new mode of defense.
That’s a way of making current antibiotics much less toxic, even if they work just as well. It’s also a way of making our food system greener and more efficient.
Using DNA sequences to create new antibiotics may sound like a crazy idea, but it’s a basic business opportunity and scientific development is showing that that’s not just possible but urgent.
But while biotech promises to make major advances in drug development, and are expanding our sources of renewable energy – we can also make a major advance in food production, with the attention of the world’s attention. That’s because biological techniques, such as plant genetic engineering and the rapid genetic mutation needed to create sustainable food crops, are far faster and cheaper than artificial breeding and can be used to generate vastly more nutritious crops.
And because biosciences offer new opportunities to identify and build on specific elements in plant genetics, we can dramatically increase food security and reduce crop volatility. As with antibiotics, this is a matter of well-being, too.
In sum, a healthy economy – one that has, effectively, the use of resources up with their worth and there to be enjoyed – is also a healthy global economy. And here’s where smart global collaboration is essential.
Which is why the U.S. as a whole and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization – both led by good people – have together long sought to call for global effort. As of yesterday, nearly 150 countries have signed on.