Monday, October 17, 2011

Bipolar politics and the madness of King Coal.

I’ve noticed a national rollback on our investment into the green sector. This is understandable: our budget is in crisis, the administrations have over spent their policies, and continued money burning cycles without real solutions is not a solution; our banking infrastructure and corporate culture needed to be curtailed to what is reasonable and necessary and only then can the nation survive and prosper. I still believe investment into the sustainable businesses and I still hold reasonable to expect the system to work, if only by the sheer evidence of an international trend of power by the people converging on choices for the people yet violence still broke out; but this is only my opinion and should not dictate national policies.

The world’s trouble and fundamental conflicts with human rights is a complicated issue, our emergence from feudal society with dignity and human rights still immature. Our transition to a harmonious and sustainable society will take time and we are racing down the destructive path we inherited from our troubled past. Where will we be tomorrow, I can only guess.

Here in the U.S., our conflicts seem to dwell on regional splits and a confusing popular support structure for federalism that empowers states to act and displaces responsibility of the national government where necessary. This curious bipolar personality of our nation’s politicians has created a compliance political structure and an opportunist business and banking sector that all too willing to take advantage of the poor and undereducated. Where big coal industry and other related special interests have force, the states are silent on green investments; where the progressive demographic reside, heavily influenced by international trends, green business flourishes. The resulting regional activities of green investments in states like CA, OR, MA, led to an ecosystem of green businesses in related fields. New ventures flock to these areas for their mutual supports and ready market.

But that’s not the end of a story. Where these states succeed, they are competing with a global market with major players like China, Japan, Germany, and many more. Nations are setting their priorities to increase pollutant standards (see China’s new Clean Production Laws and Circular Economy Laws, or the not-so-old Japanese and German Circular Economy Laws, for example) and promoting the green business sector aggressively.

Recently, a U.S. company Boston Power, a lithium ion maker, decided to move its headquarters from Massachusetts to China. The company founder cited her reason as a

"combination of financial support from the government, very eager and aggressive Chinese investors, and the fact that it's the biggest (green-tech) market in the world . . . ."

U.S. states and cities are disadvantaged economically because we don’t have consistent federal policies effectively challenging those countries. We have still yet to shift our focus to consider clean energy a key part of our economic growth strategies,

"Yes, we'll have leadership and successes in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, but the lack of a national baseline handicaps all of these players . . . "

Ron Pernick, managing director of research company Clean Edge.

Couple this with the new slogan to slash and cut EPA’s role in our nation’s future planning, we are looking at a race to the bottom where no one else seem to be racing that way. While most other nations are racing to the green top, we are digging our dirty coals and calling for less regulation into people’s health and the planet’s long term survival. There has been a lot of news lately about EPA crippling our nation’s economy. Their argument is that EPA’s rule-makings would adversely affect coal-fired electric generation, forcing utilities to decide whether to upgrade those plants or to retire them. These upgrades are too expansive and will hurt businesses and reduce their profit, thereby reducing the new labor they can afford to hire.

Somewhere in there is a leap of logic. How did we get from higher health and environmental standards to less labor? If we require new technologies to control major pollutants -- investments that the EPA says will lead to better health and greater productivity, as businesses invest into these new clean “green” tech, won’t the activities also create jobs in areas where we need to competing with countries like China, Japan, Germany?

Of course, a lot of this is pure politics, nothing else. I’ve already heard rants about how useless the EPA is and why we need to create a dirty environment to solicit dirty businesses and create even dirtier jobs. What a senseless national policy, but this is our bipolar federalism at its best!

“The House . . . is attempting to cut EPA’s funding by 18 percent . . . . Their points have made inroads with those in coal-producing states, not to mention the Obama administration. Already, the White House has slowed the start of new ozone rules that affect smog and most recently, the postponement of greenhouse gas rules. It has also made slight modifications to “cross-state air pollution rules” pertaining to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.”

The EPA’s new rules would force utilities that depend on coal to decide whether to upgrade those plants or to retire them. The tactics and arguments that EPA’s rules hurts our economy and jobs creation are counterproductive. The goal of these arguments is to provide regulatory certainty, but someone forgot to mention that those same corporate interests depended on coal are also the same ones reluctant to allocate the necessary capital and invest in the green sector. If "EPA’s wings are clipped and Congress is so bitterly divided," who will lead our national economy to compete with China – a massive market force joined by Japan, Germany, most of the EU, and the world?

“We are at a juncture when necessary upgrades are long overdue, and an experienced workforce is fully available to complete the effort,”

David Foerter, executive director of the Institute of Clean Air Companies.

Where will our nation go from this point is up to our politicians. What our politicians will decide depends on your participation and involvement. Your participation and involvement will involve a look at the larger international trends and a cooperative perspective. Protectionism will never effectively lead this country out of its problems; it will only lead our people into more troubled times; not to mention richer executives and larger profits for the few industries that have largely destroyed our planet, our people, and our profit model in a free market economy. Wake up you 99%. 

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