April 8, 2011
Global Warming Alarmism's Long March through State and Local InstitutionsBy Peter Wilson
It's tempting to be complacent about the progress made against global warming alarmism. Climate legislation seems to be stalled in the U.S. Congress. A recent Gallup poll shows that concern about global warming among the American public is at historic lows; a mere 32% of Americans believe that global warming will affect them during their lifetimes.
We must keep in mind however that true believers don't give up simply because theirs is a minority opinion. They just try in other ways. Remember the New Left's "long march through the institutions." Remember Nancy Pelosi's defiant words when she was losing the legislative battle over ObamaCare: "We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole-vault in. If that doesn't work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people."
We have witnessed the Obama administration attempting an end run around Congress by siccing the EPA on "carbon polluters." Another means of pushing climate legislation that makes fewer headlines is the multitude of activities at state and local levels. A flyer for a meeting titled "Green Future 2020" that I attended in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week makes this exact point:
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change likewise agrees that "states and regions are acting as both leaders and innovators of climate change policy."
State climate legislation is not limited to the bluest states. A 2009 report from the Pew Center on the States lists 36 states with State Climate Action Plans. Thirty states have mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standards requiring a percentage (on average 20%) of electricity to be supplied by renewable sources. Five more states have RPS "goals." States without an official Climate Plan are sure to have numerous climate programs. Alaska has a Climate Change Sub-Cabinet position in former Governor Palin's office. Red state, oil-rich Texas is home to the Texas Climate Initiative, the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, and the Texas State Energy Conservation Office. The Mayor of San Antonio is pushing a green jobs initiative. Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are all members of Clean Cities Coalitions, and not surprisingly, Austin has its own Climate Protection Program, whose goal is "to make Austin the leading city in the nation in the fight against climate change."
Somewhere in the departments of Environmental Protection or Environmental Quality in all fifty states and in thousands of city governments, bureaucrats are hard at work -- for once! -- passing new legislation or implementing existing legislation, much of which was enacted in 2007 and 2008 when the public hadn't had time to figure out they were being taken for a ride.
My home state of Massachusetts is a case in point. In 2008, the Legislature passed the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandates a reduction of between 10% and 25% below 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This unrealistic target is a first step toward a fantastically unrealistic 80% reduction by 2050. To repeat, these reductions are mandated by law, although it must be said that the mandates make no provision for the probable eventuality when targets are not met.
In response to the Global Warming Solutions Act, Governor Deval Patrick released his "Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020" in the final days of 2010, announcing that he was going with the upper limit suggested by the Legislature -- a 25% reduction by 2020.
Last week at the Green Future 2020 meeting mentioned above, Dr. David Cash, our State Undersecretary for Policy at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs led a panel discussion. Citizens were invited to "state their concerns," although the moderator announced at the outset that the only concerns permitted would be regarding things like, to quote from the flyer, "How can Massachusetts be a leader of the green revolution?"
Dr. Cash candidly admitted that his side is losing the public opinion battle over global warming and he therefore suggested that advocating for "clean energy" was a better marketing strategy than fighting to stop global warming -- er, climate change. Like Obama, Cash pushes climate legislation under the guise of green jobs, which he claims will not only address global warming, but will also bring thousands of green jobs to Massachusetts, and will save consumers billions of dollars.
Unfortunately evidence supporting Dr. Cash's argument is scarce. Last year Spain pulled the plug on its green jobs program after a widely reported study found the green job philosophy "terribly economically counterproductive." According to the study, every green job created required an investment of $774,000 and cost Spain 2.2 other jobs due to increased energy costs.
Closer to home, Massachusetts's green jobs venture with Evergreen Solar ended in failure when Evergreen moved manufacturing jobs to China. Harvard professor Edward L. Glaeser wrote about Evergreen in the New York Times, maintaining that "it was always a mistake to think that clean energy was going to be a jobs bonanza." The Massachusetts Clean Energy Plan however takes it for granted that the State can shovel any amount of taxpayer money into green investments because it will come back with dividends, never addressing how much all this will cost Massachusetts taxpayers.
For example, Dr. Cash claims that 13,000 new jobs -- adding 0.4% to the state's workforce of 3.5 million -- will be created in the "transportation" category. The report explains:
If lowering costs creates jobs, doesn't it follow that increased energy costs will create unemployment? Where are the calculations for jobs lost from the increased tax burden from the various subsidies? What about the significant rises in local energy prices because of rate guarantees to wind and solar companies?
The concern about money going "out of state" in the above quote, which also appears elsewhere in the report -- promoting "energy independence" for Massachusetts -- is a radical form of protectionism to discourage interstate commerce. Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest American states because it spends $22 billion (6% of our $325 billion GDP) on Texas oil, Quebec hydro, and Sable Island natural gas, to keep our great biotech, high tech, health care and financial industries running. Should we also offer subsidies to bring in shoe manufacturers to avoid sending money out of state?
Although global warming alarmism seems to be on the decline, it's in the nature of bureaucratic endeavors to perpetuate themselves. The thousands of regional, state, city, and NGO organizations created to combat global warming have a vested interest to stick fast, like limpets, to the public trough.