Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Topic of the Day: New Environmentalism
I was deciding whether to discuss an old (in blog time) John Tierney column on Social Security or an old (again, in blog time) LA Times article on Environmentalism. Obvious by the title, I chose the latter for now, but mainly because a new post by Ed Kilgore brought up the very same issue.
A couple months ago Nicholas Kristof wrote that the current environmental movement needs to die off so that a new one may be born. He couldn't have been more right. I agreed with him then, and it looks like his words are like a prophecy. The LATimes article, "A Shift to Green: Driven by profit and the opportunity to shape regulations, major corporations are backing stronger measures to reduce global warming", shows us that businesses are well ahead of the Bush Administration on global warming.
Right-Wing hacks like Rush claim that volcanoes cause global warming and Robert Novak claim that Kyoto was intended to damage Industrialized Western economies and has nothing to do with environmentalism. Meanwhile, the people they are trying to defend (major corporations, in particular the energy industry) realize the problem is inevitable and they better get started doing something about it. The LATimes piece, written by Miguel Bustillo, is quite well researched and long, so I'm not going to bother posting much of it here, but it certainly deserves your time. A sample:
Bucking the Bush administration's position that tougher rules would harm the U.S. economy, Fortune 500 companies including General Electric Co., Duke Energy Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in recent months have championed stronger government measures to reduce industrial releases of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas that scientists have linked to rising temperatures and sea levels.But my favorite part--and in particular what makes this "New Environmentalism"--is the idea that reducing greenhouse emissions is bad for business. This is good stuff:
Although their rhetoric is rife with references to protecting planet Earth, some of the corporations acknowledge that their newfound focus on global warming is driven by opportunity for profit. Duke Energy would like to build a new nuclear power plant, a type of electricity generation that does not emit greenhouse gases, for instance, while GE wants to expand sales of wind power turbines and pollution-control equipment.Nuclear Power, eh? Happens to be a favorite topic of someone I know.
"We believe we can help improve the environment and make money doing it," GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt said last month in a speech at George Washington University that attracted widespread notice. "We see that green is green."
But it isn't all about how energy companies can make or lose money. Chances are, they'll take some short term financial hits but come out ahead, simply due to the profitability of a nuclear power plant over the fossil fuel variety. It is more about other companies. GE has a division that sells environmental products, as mentioned above. There exists a potential for an entire industry of environmental consultants and auditors.
When banks went digital and we realized the large security risk that was involved with that, the government set some extremely strict regulations on how a bank's computer systems and networks had to be set up. What happened? The banks didn't start going out of business. Instead, a fairly sizeable industry popped up to help these banks reach the compliance standards necessary to meet those governmental regulations.
The real threat is not if we act, but when. If we wait 10 years to make a major "shift to green", then the companies that will aide that shift will be European and Asian corporations. The environmental products will be designed in France, built in China, and installed by foreign contractors. The Bush Administration would shamefully alter records instead of getting on the ground floor of what almost everyone with a head on their shoulders realizes is an inevitability.
Unfortunately this isn't going to happen under a Bush-DeLay government. Why?
Most oil and gas companies, among the president's biggest political benefactors, remain firmly opposed to toughening the administration's existing policies, which promote only voluntary reductions of greenhouse gases.Oh that's right.