Why Green Matters Now

An old debate has taken on a sudden new urgency.

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If you think the intertwined subjects of energy and the environment are uninteresting, the April print issue is not for you. (If you're on the fence, give me a minute to make my case.) I know the hesitation. We've seen it, we've heard it. We're locked in the same old debate we've been having at least since the '70s when Americans first realized that energy wasn't a free good—and how unpleasant life became when the price went up, to say nothing of the social costs of using too much. Over the years, we've written our share of stories that, while fascinating, essentially recapped the status quo.

But a lot has changed very recently, and the stalled debate is moving toward a critical mass for action. In our current print issue, our writers and editors take you through the new state of play of this crucial topic, which involves politics, economics, and technology—and maybe the health of the world. What's changed, in a word, is Obama. The president and the tide of voters who swept him into office want a change in the way we manage energy and the environment—and to put them at the top of the country's agenda. It looks like that will happen.

President Barack Obama has radically shifted the debate with a combination of political momentum and the one currency always sure to spawn activity in Washington: cash. By putting energy and the environment at the center of the giant stimulus spending bill, Obama made a significant downpayment on a host of new initiatives and industries—and put the government in a central management role. Combating climate change has moved from a job-killing burden to a job-creating opportunity. Now, the two tracks of energy and climate meet in the Green Energy Economy.

Of course, any time Washington thinks it has solved the world's problems, there's reason for skepticism and debate. Our stories give you all sides of the issue, including exclusive interviews with top policymakers. But even if you have your doubts about man-made global warming, for instance, who can argue with the notion that using energy in the cleanest, most efficient way isn't a good thing?

We sure can't. Which is why we went beyond our normal environmentally efficient production process and printed the entire magazine on what's called "manufactured carbon-neutral paper." We're doing the same with our newsstand guidebooks, America's Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools . The paper comes from mills—in this case, Catalyst Paper in British Columbia—that use material from certified sustainable forests and, through extensive use of biofuels and hydropower, manufacture their paper with low emissions of greenhouse gases. To offset the remaining emissions, we pay a premium for the paper that Catalyst then invests in reforesting parkland in western Canada.

It's a small contribution, but it makes a difference. And who can argue with that?