09 March 2009

Green Government: The Administration's Role in Cultivating a Greener America

In a previous post, I discussed the benefits afforded to the green energy industry by the recently passed stimulus package, noting that the effort to save these companies will be long-term despite the excellent boost provided in the legislation. This week, however, I thought it necessary to delve deeper into the government's role in the transition of America's economy to a greener one, using two posts that I discovered through the BBC and the New York Times. The first post, coincidentally written by the previously cited Kate Galbraith, details a meeting of the "Middle Class Task Force," whose members include the Vice President and some of his advisors. Galbraith notes some of the highlights of this Philadelphia meeting, placing particular reverence on the statements of Van Jones, the founder of the non-governmental organization Green For All, who stated that green jobs should be used to clean up the ghettos first. The second post I will address is part of Justin Rowlatt's "Ethical Man" blog (see left), a series in which Rowlatt chronicles his trip across America examining solutions to global warming. A congenial and pleasant writer, Rowlatt recently wrote about the importance of America's contribution to the climate change campaign, calling its involvement a true "game changer," and admitting that his trip has begun to raise his hopes for a global agreement on climate change in general. Though these posts are relatively broad in scope, I felt it important to spend some time addressing the part the United States government will play in reference to alternative energy and even the effort to stem climate change in general. My responses to these posts display my sentiments that the current administration is pushing in the right direction, filling some important shoes in the international fight against global warming. I have, as previously done, linked to my comments at their original sites, but also pasted them here to avoid any access-related problems.

"Biden, Luminaries Promote Green Jobs"

Kate, thank you so much for taking some time to focus on the efforts of our current administration. I feel that we have reached a turning point in the fight against climate change, and as a proponent of alternative energy I am so encouraged by the meeting you have discussed in this post.

I would like to ask you about a particular part of your post. In your description of the Middle Class Task Force's meeting, you state that "it was Van Jones, a green-jobs activist and one of the panelists, who brought down the house," noting that his suggestion that we use green jobs to encourage the decline of violence in ghettos. Do you feel that this is an achievable objective? During my research on alternative energy, I have often read and even posted about the green sector's potential to create enough jobs to pull the American economy out of the gutter, but I have never read about its ability to reduce violence in ghettos. Clearly, though, Van Jones has immense faith in the green industry's ability to lift people out of poverty, and I think this is an admirable and unique approach to take on the subject. Indeed, Green for All's website states that the creation of "green-collar" jobs will pair "two crucial concerns about survival - the environment and making a living." The transition to a green economy will undoubtedly produce many opportunities and Jones's Green for All movement is an example of the diverse groups that believe in this fact. Personally, I feel that full dedication to the green movement is the only way that we can see a change both in the American economy and in global emissions, and such changes have the ability to bring out a complete restructuring of these realms, including the creation of several new financial sectors, like those seen in Silicon Valley or even downtown areas in general. I am proud to have voted for an administration that has formed a Middle Class Task Force, and its conversation about the opportunities of green-collar jobs enhances my faith in the abilities of the transition we are experiencing.

"Why America is the game-changer on climate"

Justin, first allow me to voice my excitement and say that I greatly enjoy your blog. What a great way to experience the emerging green industries and explore America's efforts on climate change! That being said, I would like to address some of the facets of your post about America's role in the fight against global warming.

I am glad you have pointed out that, while there are economic risks involved with becoming the first "low carbon economy," Obama is not willing to stand by and watch American industries and consumers continue to degrade the environment. The cap-and-trade idea has been controversial to say the least, but it is wrong for us to expect a perfect solution. Some environmentalists argue that this is one way that economically productive polluters stay entrenched in their position: by pointing out only the flaws in potential solutions and arguing that we must wait for comprehensive tactic that will show immediate results without causing any collateral damage. To counter this argument and risk sounding colloquial, you have to crack some eggs if you want to make an omelet: while I do not believe that America will be economically crippled by a leading position on climate change, we must accept that some changes will be made. The result, however, is something Dr. Hansen, cited in your post, said: we will avoid "catastrophic climate change." I do, however, wonder about your position on the issue. Do you believe the economic hurdles are too great to conquer this issue? Do you believe that the alternative energy cause will die before it is truly developed?

Secondly, I would like to commend Hillary Clinton (see right), who has been putting climate change at the heart of her foreign policy trips. This is important, for as you said, any plan to stop climate change (such as the cap-and-trade system) "will need to try to ensure that no country seeks to profit from the rest of the world's attempt to tackle global warming by operating as a kind of off-store high-carbon industrial centre." Thus, implementing these concerns in foreign policy is imperative, especially if America wishes to construct its own alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. To conclude and to respond to your question, America will definitely be the game-changer on climate. It is extremely influential, and the inclusion of climate change in foreign policy will allow it to push this movement forward.

1 comment:

  1. Joe, your responses are well thought out and articulated. I think you have found two thought provoking entries on a very touchy subject. The lead-in section introduces the writers and circumstances quite appropriately, especially for someone that is not as well versed on the latest in the climate change battle. In the first response, the question you pose to the writer is appropriate, but maybe it should be directed to Mr. Van Jones. I, too, do not see how this plan is achievable. It seems awfully farfetched to have gang-bangers start sealing the cracks in their house and stop fighting for survival on the streets. There seem to be greater underlying issues here.
    As a finance major, and one that does not see eye-to-eye with you on the topic, I appreciate that you decided to respond to the Ethical Man post. Companies are hesitant to spend the money up front for green renovations that still have uncertain future benefits. Also, I do not believe the administration should impose any sort of regulations on companies that will put them under any further economic pressure. Two or three years from now, something of the sort should be done. I do agree with you on one key point, though. Before America invests billions in lowering emissions and generally green-ing the country, it must ensure that other countries are prepared to follow suit. Otherwise, our green economy will lose business because these programs cost more money to implement and make our businesses less competitive in the global economy.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.