The Tirade over Cap-And-Trade

Green Living — By on January 1, 2010 6:00 PM

We must cap pollution in this country;
our health depends on it.

By Alix Shutello

“It is unambiguous that humans are causing global warming,” said Roger Pielke Sr. a climate research scientist at the University of Colorado but he added that “it’s just that it’s much more than CO2.”

And he is right.

Climate change is only one of a myriad of issues plaguing human health and the environment. Consider the negative impacts of deforestation, filling watersheds to make way for development, over-fishing, and environmental injustices such as the Erin Brochovich-like stories of communities’ air and groundwater sources being poisoned by a nearby corporation. There are also large swaths of plastics floating in our seas that are hundreds of miles long, tourist divers nicking coral reefs on dives, and carcinogens emitted from natural gas drilling and other industrial sources to name a few. We are all doing a fine job at destroying whats natural, both through individual and industrial means.

In essence, human kind has been destroying the environment for decades; but because the affects of our actions are slow to manifest in the forms of cancers, typhoons, mud slides, desertification, and ice-melting, we are also slow to react.

But the poisoning of air and water is an unnecessary and careless behavior that needs regulation; especially since industry has been unable or unwilling to regulate itself. The era of deregulation is over – industry-especially the oil industry with its billions in profits- must finance their own pollution controls and stop threatening to drive jobs overseas and punish consumers. But don’t think I am forgetting the plastics, pharmaceutical, health care, coal, and other industries that also contribute to air and water pollution.

This industry, “threaten the consumer” game, is old news anyway. The flushing of jobs overseas and punishing of consumers has been going on as long as big business has had control over legislators.

Past energy legislation introduced in this country, like the bipartisan America’s Climate Security Act of 2007 sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) during past president George W. Bush’s last term, aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions, was squelched when U.S. industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), reported that gasoline prices would swell. Groups from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to the Heritage Foundation jumped into the fray – all trying to convince Americans that we would be subject to huge energy price increases and that the U.S. economy would suffer. Our politicians folded to the pressure of big business and let that bill go.

Despite the obvious and often repeated facts about the effects of global warming, pollution and over consumption, Americans in particular remain ambivalent; public denial and inaction sets in. I believe this is because of the media. The whole global climate issue is so convoluted, contorted, and conspired that it is impossible to rally behind global climate change because we don’t know what or who to believe. The media has offered so many mixed messages and questions for debate, it’s just confusing the issue. And that is just what big business is hoping for, as it helps them succeed in dumbing down or preventing legislation that would hinder their current business practices.

EPA Steps it Up

In December, 2009 the U.S. EPA proclaimed that “climate changing pollution threatens the public health and environment.” While this statement is both obvious and very late in its arrival, it is this argument that I believe holds the most credibility in the global climate debate. The message Americans should be hearing is that our laws and regulations reflect a desire to protect public health and that this is why we cannot, as a nation, continue to allow corporations to emit cancer-causing agents into our air and water. Messages about our regulations should promote public health, not a burden on industry or the American people.

The U.S. Senate must pass an energy bill that is not full of corporate loopholes and financial goodies for energy companies and corporate zillionaires. Big business and interest groups with environmental-sounding names will try to manipulate the American public to believe that going green, as a nation, means the end of jobs and opportunities. But that is absolutely not the case. If we orchestrate this bill correctly, according to the Blue Green Alliance, policies such as renewable electricity mandates, for example, could create 850,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S and that’s just in one business sector!

China is Not a Scapegoat

China did not start to emit more greenhouse gases than the U.S. until 2000 or so, when the technology industry began to outsource jobs overseas. Since that time, even though we have been manufacturing less, our pollution output, per person, has remained higher than any other population on earth. The Chinese, with their booming population, has remained four times our size (1.3 billion people live there opposed to our 308 million) and only now, in the last decade, are burning more fossil fuels that we are. But pound per pound, one American emits four times the greenhouse gases than anyone from China.
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And, despite the fact that China emits 14% more greenhouse gases than the U.S., we are still the second world’s greatest greenhouse contributor, followed very far behind by the European Union and India. And, unlike the U.S., China has been “acting progressively on environmental policy” in the past year, developing plans to shut down highly polluting small and midsize industries and looking for ways to use alternative energies.

Energy Legislation is Not a Panacea

An article in the Detroit News stated, that “while Waxman-Markey ( the energy legislation that passed through the House of Representatives this Summer and which has been passed to the Senate for consideration and debate) lowers the costs of limiting CO2 emissions, it does not eliminate them.” But that is the very point of energy legislation – to reduce emissions. We will never completely eliminate the use of oil, gas, coal, and nuclear sources of energy but we can reduce its cost on the environment by reducing their use.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “she’d support the cap-and-trade policy if the bill can also tout development in traditional energy programs like oil, gas, and coal as much as it does solar, wind and other alternative technologies.” But it is just those types of allowances that provide goodies for corporations and prevent actual change in pollution outputs. We’ve tried that before and oil, gas and coal have had “development” allowances forever.

Our new energy legislation needs to focus on these things:

1. Emissions trading. Emissions trading should not be part of any regulation on pollution output – for the Russians have already reduced their greenhouse emissions below 1990 levels and are looking to create an Ebay-like bidding process for the credits. That is not saving the environment – that is extorting money from other nations.

2. Pollution caps – corporations have had decades to purchase energy solutions for their industrial processes and should be ready to come to the table with energy solutions. We, as a nation, have been discussing the adoption of these controls with absolute resistance from U.S. Corporations and it is time for them to use their profits to regulate their pollution output to acceptable standards set by the U.S. EPA.

3. Accountability – corporations don’t need to be regulated to death if they can demonstrate their commitment to reducing emissions and owning up when they make mistakes in human health situations, in particular. Communities in the vicinities of industrial plants or corporate agricultural operations should not have to suffer from the plight of pollution from these sources.

The Silver Buckshot Approach to Pollution Control

Al Gore explained in an exclusive article to Costco, that “a responsible and effective approach to solving the climate crisis would avoid the mistaken search for a silver bullet.” Gore suggests “a buckshot approach – a multitude of different technologies all used at once to decrease our dependence on oil.”

And these different technologies mean jobs.

Think of it – we need people who specialize in generating, transporting, storing, and using these new technologies. We need teachers, students, and practitioners.

New jobs can be introduced into the American economy for specialists in industry stack construction and development, pollution emission abatement and monitoring and a slew of other positions that will be needed to monitor emissions, and create new technologies to make our industrial processes cleaner- and that’s just for industrial buildings. Our electrical grids need a complete overhaul as well. They need new technologies and all the specialists that will build, design, review, monitor, fix, and market these new methodologies of utilizing oil, gas, electric and coal.

Adopting a new policy can have important impacts not only on our economy but on our national security as well. As much as I love India and even have colleagues that I work with from there, I don’t want to come to depend on these resources. The U.S. should be self-sustaining.

Syndicated writer Donald Lambro reported in his Washington Times column, in March 2009, that Americans are “more willing to put environmental initiatives on the back burner if they would undermine or impede economic growth.” I believe this is because Americans are brainwashed to believe these two concepts are mutually exclusive; but the economy and the environment are intrinsically tied together and itis time that energy policy, in this nation, demonstrated how this is so.

Americans utilize an embarrassingly large amount of global resources and emit exorbitant amounts of pollutants – Congress must pass legislation that is good for human health and provides incentives for industry to make changes in pollution output. It is time for the U.S. to be accountable for its pollution output. Technologies we develop here will enable us to better assist developing nations so that they don’t go down the same path we did, which was to pollute first, clean up later. I would hope we can be the global leaders in this charge.

Suggested Reading:
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/critic-of-climate-oligarchy-defends-case-for-co2-driven-warming/
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175174/

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