America’s Next Economic Model

Can telecommuting and videoconferencing bring down carbon emissions?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Most policies to bring down carbon emissions raise the cost of energy. What happens then? According to conventional economic models, the first result is inflation: The cost of goods and services goes up. In this view, climate policy is a kind of castor oil for the economy—good for you, but really unpleasant.

But what if energy users, assisted by smart public policies, interpreted high energy prices not as a pain, but as an incentive to use energy more wisely? What if there were copious opportunities to increase efficiency, those investments paid handsome returns, and the energy savings made up for the price increase? Real-world studies show that businesses and consumers actually can reduce emissions and come out ahead—as John “Skip” Laitner, an economist at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, puts it, “The evidence is everywhere but in the models.” Laitner, who also spent a decade at the epa, has been working to integrate the news about efficiency into modeling. In June, he showed Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that transportation measures alone—such as “crusher credits” for low mileage cars, energy driver’s ed, and telecommuting and videoconferencing—could save the equivalent of 46 billion barrels of oil by 2030, as much as the country uses in six years.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest