cash moneyI just can’t help wondering what else we could do with $700 billion.

According to the United Nations, the entire debt for the entire continent of Africa was about $320 billion in 2003. Adjusting for inflation and further accumulated debt, let’s call it an even $350 billion.

You could install solar panels on 20 million American homes for $300 billion. (I’m ballparking a rather conservative $15k for full installation of enough solar infrastructure to fully power an average American house; the price would surely come down drastically at that scale.) By the way, 20 million houses is more than one-quarter of the entire stock of occupied detached houses in the U.S.

Of course, the solar panels would actually pay for themselves pretty quickly. Under this plan, lucky homeowners (or renters) would then pay nothing for their new solar electricity—we just footed the entire bill. It might be nice to target low-income folks, who generally inhabit the least efficient buildings. Even better, because the sunniest parts of the US are also, generally speaking, some of the most coal-dependent we’d shut down coal plants across the Sun Belt. So it’s a huge win for global warming to boot.

That still leaves $50 billion lying around under the couch cushions.

We could install ground source heat pumps for 5 million American homes for $50 billion. (I’m ballparking a mildly conservative $10k for enough GSP installation to fully heat an average house.) Again, this would also pay for itself pretty fast. Plus, lucky low-income folks in the colder climates would be looking at a lifetime of carbon-free (and money-free) heat for their homes. One good place to start would be in places like the northeast where expensive and inefficient oil heating is common.

Pretty sweet. I just retired every cent of Africa’s crushing debt. Then using conservative estimates, I provided an eternal supply of free electricity or heat to 25 million households—thereby drastically reducing US carbon emissions.

Alternatively, some credible analysts have suggested that paying the full cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol for the entire world would run $716 billion. (I should mention that other credible estimates are much, much lower.) And this figure doesn’t count the tremendous savings from avoiding the potential costs of climate change impacts—estimated at trillions of dollars just for the U.S.