Prizes and carbon races and the like are all well and good, but I don't think you've taken the potential for reductions given current technology seriously enough. I was just hearing on the radio that Denmark has half the per-capita carbon emissions that we have. They're just as rich as we are (maybe a little richer) and they don't have any super magic technology that sequesters carbon. Surely we could get part of the way there by mimicing some policy choices other countries have already made?
That's right. Ignore the fact that Denmark has the highest electricity cost in the world, and ignore the fact that Danes pay the world's highest income tax rate, and instead wax poetic about their green energy (while ignoring the fact that the majority of electricity in Denmark comes from coal power plants).
And don't forget to skip over the fact that Denmark has the fortune of windy coasts (three times as windy as America's Gulf Coast), and that Denmark's government is very progressive in its climate policy.
Certainly, Denmark has adopted policies toward greenitude that the United States would be wont to ignore, like using high-efficienciy appliances and building materials, designing urbanscapes around mass transit, and progressive and renewable agricultural strategies. But many of their policies are rooted in (and enabled by) a culture and government that believes in the welfare state.
The core solutions to Denmark's green policy (180% registration tax on privately owned vehicles, for example) are not feasible in a world where freemarket capitalism rules the day.*
I want to own a Hummer HX someday. If only a few were made, so be it; I'll get so disgustingly wealthy I can buy one anyway. But when I own it, I want to drive down the street belching noxious fumes into the air with reckless aplomb, while eating McDonald's quarter pounders in the old fashioned styrofoam non-biodegradeable containers and sitting on leather seats (greatest song ever, lol). If our nation decides that carbon emissions are so terrible we must cap and/or reduce them, I may not achieve the dream of pushing traffic out of my way in my mega-vehicle.
But wouldn't it be more awesome if I could?! And to do that, while still seeking methods to clean the air, we must aggressively pursue methods to sequester carbon. It is easier to adapt to people's behaviors than it is to alter them.
Think of it in terms of digital cameras. What Denmark has done is create a country where hard drive space is abundant because no one uses digital cameras that take pictures above 5 megapixels, so that people's pictures never fill up hard drives. If someone wants to take six megapixel images, they pay a obscenely high tax before they can do so.
But here in the U.S. of A., we have 21.1 megapixel cameras. Hard drives keep getting bigger to store those massive, high quality image files. Should we adopt a strategy like the Danes, and force people to give up their 21 megapixel cameras to make the world of hard drives a better place? Or should we instead encourage innovation in hard drive technology, so that one day when the world craves 400 megapixel images, the hard drives are ready and waiting?
*Some of TAE's most beloved relatives have strong Danish backgrounds. I love the Danish people and do not want them to take this as an attack on them. I just loathe their societal structure.