Before I tell you how to get cheaper gas, please stand with me and wave goodbye to the middle class. It’s crumbling faster that you can say Anti-Trust. The New America Foundation spells it out statistically:
– Low income jobs now account for 41% of total employment
– Middle income jobs in the United States fell from 52% in 1980 to 42% in 2010
– Last year wages increased 1.7%. Food and energy costs grew by 2.7%
– 17 million US college graduates do jobs with skill levels that don’t require a bachelor’s degree
We can’t hang all the blame on big oil. We screwed up our middle class by ignoring:
– The Citizens United decision that eviscerated campaign spending limits
– Climate change that’s intensified bad weather, resulting in poorer crops and rising food costs
– HMO’s that add an inefficient layer of cost on health care
– Wars we didn’t need and cannot win
– The impact of prices at the pump on discretionary spending
We have a choice: let the middle class melt or do something about these issues, and the issue we ought to tackle fast is big oil’s control over an essential resource. Obviously to continue the oil subsidies is irrational; a costly accommodation to oil lobbyists. But that 4 billion dollar giveaway is a drop in the barrel compared to the potential savings at the pump if we regulated gasoline price increases even if it means nationalizing the oil industry to get it done. Anybody old enough to remember when we took apart Standard Oil for the good of the nation?
We make utilities justify price increases. Isn’t the oil industry as critical to the well-being of the American consumer? Won’t federal controls on pump price increases discourage commodity speculators? Do we really want to keep pump-taxing middle income Americans, and sending their tax money to OPEC and BP? What if some of the oil dollars we export became available for investment in renewable energies? Alternative energies push down gas prices and spur green manufacturing.
Continued inaction means we accept our new economic feudalism. Or, we regulate gas price increases and free the surfs.
Nobody said it would be easy, but the E.P.A. has taken on a powerful adversary in its effort to get industry to go public with data on hydro fluorocarbon emissions. Efforts to get the facts out have set loose the lobbying mercenaries of the oil producers and refiners, steel companies and the aluminum manufacturers who argue collectively that it’s enough for the public to know that emissions are a problem; but that there’s no need to go public with specific data on the actual amounts of greenhouse gasses shed.
Industry insists such detailed disclosures give away company secrets and telegraph the specifics of internal plant operations to competitors. They oppose the E.P.A. proposal to make public the underlying data used to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. Unsaid but obvious is that they balk at providing specifics on heat trapping gases because it arms E.P.A. efforts to make industry mitigate CO2 pollution, efforts that come with complex rules and costly procedures.
As the battle forces take their positions, industry lobbyists gulp coffee and work the phones late to block what the E.P.A itself has described as some of the most ambitious regulatory controls in history. Most importantly, it’s expected that the EPA will declare CO2 a pollutant that is dangerous to the public health, a declaration leading to a matrix of regulations that industry will spend millions to avoid.
It’s coming down to a choice seen by heavy industry as the lesser of two dreaded evils. Either the EPA is going to be a CO2 emissions watchdog with strict regulatory standards and the power to oversee industrial production; or, industry will have to accept congressional legislation, likely to produce a carbon cap system. While wanting neither, forced to the wall industry will prefer to deal with congress, knowing legislators will respond to their lobbyists while the E.P.A. will not.
In the strange bedfellows department, heavy industry and the Obama administration curiously will be allies as the drama unfolds. The Obama administration prefers a congressional solution with cap and trade legislation, thereby sharing the political liability with Congress. Watch for the Obama team to wave the scenario of an expanded E.P.A. regulatory bureaucracy like a red flag, as a means of encouraging coal, oil, and heavy industries to accept a cap and trade system.
In either case, full disclosure of emissions details belongs in the public record. The sin of omission merely delays the inevitable.
Newport’s trash is gone. 15,000 music lovers might have left it scattered about Fort Adams State Park over the three days at the jazz Mecca that first formed back in the sixties. Some 2 tons of plastic bottles, paper and other potential waste didn’t get trashed, didn’t go to the landfill and instead is being recycled. Who are our green angels? A terrific group of volunteers from Clean Water Action, with 40,000 members in Rhode Island and more than 1.2 million thoughout the U.S.
Volunteers collected the waste via trash, compost and recycle bins conveniently placed throughout the festival Park. This year, for the first time in the 19 years the Clear Water Action has handled the Newport Festival recycling, the group collected food waste in bins specifically for composting, with volunteers trucking the waste. Earth Care Farmof Charleston, Rhode Island (they offer tours!) will handle the composting which will in turn be used throughout the state.
If one of your missions is to green your office, a new 25 minute video from My Green Mind can help. The new video titled The Ultimate Guide to Greening an Office, shows employers and employees how to cut office waste and reduce energy consumption.
digital filing and the dream of the paperless office;
office meetings and presentations;
purchasing tactics for going green;
office furniture considerations;
safe electronics recycling;
healthy office cleaning;
inside air pollution;
electricity consumption tips and more.
The video is informational, not an advertorial.
“We’ve set out to a offer a practical guide that’s chock full of specific actions employers and employees can take,” said My Green Mind’s Marketing Manager, Michael Grossman. “Tips are appropriate for offices of all sizes from the small home office to the facilities of a mid-size corporation,” he noted. “The video does not cover green office design, which is technical and architectural in scope, but rather it suggests changes in workplace habits and ways of operating that will absolutely reduce an office’s carbon footprint. Every step will positively help the environment and many will also reduce corporate costs.”
The twenty-five minute The Ultimate Guide to Greening an Officeprogram is available at www.mygreenmind.com. After viewing the video, a link is provided for a free checklist to help office mangers implement the video’s recommendations.
(You can also test your knowledge of electronics recycling issues; find a Dictionary of toxins found in popular cleaning products; compare your electricity use to that of your neighbors; or grade your personal carbon footprint at the site.)
Honestly some days I wake up and rub my eyes thinking, this has to be a dream. Why would Congress allocate stimulus dollars to China to make windmills for a West Texas wind farm that Americans could make?
U.S. Renewable Energy Group, Cielo Wind Power and A-Power Energy Generation Systems, the business consortium behind the Texas based wind farm, has asked congress for nearly a half billion dollars so the project’s 240 windmills can be built in a turbine factory in the city of Shenyang, China.
Despite congress’ undisputed expertise in windbaggery, the Chinese understand what the project means to their economy while we don’t. China, like India, labels renewable technology a top priority, calling it a “strategic industry”. Thus categorized, they give free land, low cost loans and they underwrite jobs for green collar workers employed by companies developing green technology.
We, despite having lost 40,000 manufacturing companies–that’s right companies–in a decade, turn to China to manufacture our windmill turbines. We’re sending US jobs to China along with nearly half a billion US stimulus dollars. With U.S. support, the consortium is contracting with Chinese firms, not American companies, to build Texas’ turbines.
2,330 jobs will come on line, created by the $1.5 billion dollar West Texas farm. That sounds good until you learn that 2,000 of those jobs are in China.
The consortium argues that the Chinese-built wind turbines, made with low cost labor and benefiting
from a subsidized currency, will cost less than American made turbines. But are they cheaper in the long run, given the generally acknowledged higher maintenance costs and poorer quality of the Chinese made turbines? The calculation further shifts to favor stateside production if you factor in the increased domestic tax revenue when Americans go to work, and reduced social costs when fewer collect unemployment.
And while we’re talking about China, are you familiar with my favorite Chinese proverb?
“IF WE DON’T CHANGE DIRECTION,
WE ARE LIBLE TO END UP WHERE WE ARE HEADED”
If U.S. tax dollars can’t be spent to stimulate domestic green jobs, then where indeed are we headed?
Are we heading for an economy based on easily replicated services? ‘Cause if that’s where we’re headed, then we will continue to see a descent into lower wages, decreased buying power, and a quietly dissolving middle class.
Which brings me to my admittedly lame takeoff on another old saying:
“PEOPlE WHO LIVE IN GREEN HOUSES
DON”T NOT NEED FOREIGN LOANS”
What kind of middle class are we betting on? One in which the workers manufacture breakthrough green technologies? Or one dependent on revenues from shopkeepers and clericals? And I am a shopkeeper!
Finally, what about the military implications of ceding yet another manufacturing sector to China? Should, God forbid, we have to confront the powerful Chinese militarily, would we ask them to please build our weapons before the war starts? Would we ask them to add the cost to our tab?
Take a hard look at the West Texas windmill project and the powerful consortium behind it. Perhaps federal dollars provided for the project should stipulate that turbines carry a “Made in America” stamp.
Credit to Leo W. Gerard for bringing this to our attention.
(Comment by My Green Mind’s I Michael Grossman. We welcome your comments as well.)
You know the drill. We’re gulping from plastic bottles at ever faster rates, with per capita use more than doubling by the decade. (We bought 3.3 billion plastic bottles in 1993 and 15 billion in 2002.)
About 40 million plastic bottles a day become trash with a recycling rate of merely 19% in 2003.
If the numbers are so big you can hardly wrap your mind around them, maybe David de Rothschild can help. The adventurer is setting sail between California and Sydney, floating on the deep, blue sea. In a boat made of plastic bottles.
De Rothschild, the British heir to a major bank fortune, came up with a unique way to publicize the plastic bottle trash issue. He built a boat. A 60 foot boat. A catamaran made out of 12,000 two liter soda plastic bottles. It’s aptly named the Plastiki and recently she set sail from the Bay of Sausalito California.
Even the ship’s construction is eco-thoughtful – using glue made from cashew hulls and sugar. Billionaire de Rothschild and his crew departed Sausalito, California on March 30 bound for Sidney, Australia, a voyage expected to take about 100 days and cover 11,000 nautical miles.
De Rothschild hopes the ship’s expedition will bring attention to the global waste problem.
“We’re needlessly losing millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals from ingesting plastic every year,” said de Rothschild.
“I decided to take this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem and build a boat out of the very items that we were seeing ending up in our natural environment.”
One of the main sights the voyage of the Plastiki will highlight will be when the Plastiki passes the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous and deadly island of floating ocean trash, twice the size of Texas, consisting of discarded plastic bottles and bags.
Ship of 12,000 plastic bottles
Follow their voyage on Twitter @Plastiki learn and learn more at their website: http://www.theplastiki.com/
(Comment by My Green Mind’s I Michael Grossman. We welcome your comments as well.)
It’s a shame the label we gave to world-wide meteorological change is “global warming.” Calling it “climate change” would have sparked less controversy.
By narrowing the focus to warming trends, we set ourselves up. We made it easy for the pundits to point out the window and mock “global warming” when blizzards recently hit the capital. A few said “global warming” was a myth, hatched by a handful of crotchety scientific misfits.
If they were right and global warming is just a figment of some meteorologist’s imagination, wouldn’t that make life easier? We could continue as is, stay fat, dumb and wasteful, and not worry that our grandchildren will describe us as the generation that didn’t care. We could keep dumping 90 million tons of global pollution every 24 hours, treat the world as our trash can, and use America’s topsoil as our sewer, from sea to fishless sea.
But the problem with that kind of denial is that a troubling body of new data, like pesky factual gadflies, keeps pricking our “all-is-hunky-dory” bubble. Gore calls the data ”inconvenient truths” and recently, in a February 28, 2010 New York Times editorial, the former Vice President reminded us of a really inconvenient reality: that even though blizzards dumped more snow than the nation’s capital has seen in years, scientists confirm that globally, the last decade was the hottest since they started recording temperatures.
If this issue were a packaged goods product, we could change the “Global Warming” brand name and introduce “Climate Change.” That would help voters think beyond warming trends to the more encompassing issue of world-wide meteorological instability.
Or, we could suggest that those with an aversion to science might consult their postman. Since they deliver the mail through rain, snow and dark of night, he or she knows that the weather isn’t so seasonally reliable. The bad weather is worse. We’re seeing more storms, more flooding, blizzards, quakes and droughts, and they’re more ferocious.
In the New York Times editorial, the Vice President broke a complex issue down into terms even I can understand. Higher temperatures, he explained, result in greater ocean evaporation, pumping more moisture in the air, and thus creating more rain or snow. Seas rise. Hurricanes get more ferocious. Generally the weather is more destructive. Ironically, there’s more flooding in some regions while others experience record drought. Global seasonal weather patterns increasingly deviate from time-established norms.
(Scary stuff. And when I see the scenes of destruction on TV, the flooding, wild winds and battered homes, besides my first concern which is for the human suffering, I confess a selfish thought arises also. I want to rush to the phone and dump my stocks in casualty insurance companies. That impulse led me to a better market, one ripe for investvestment, and, no, it’s not that bridge in Brooklyn.)
Often altruism and investment opportunity coalesce, and battling climate change is an ideal example. To reduce its global carbon footprint, America is entering a new, second manufacturing era which will replace the industry we’ve been exporting for decades. The new manufacturers will bring the greener technologies to market. Individual stocks and green oriented mutual funds will fund faster, more efficient ship-by-rail alternatives , smart grids, electric cars, better automotive batteries and the rainbow of non-petroleum based, alternative energy companies.
For individuals, some of these funds offer us a smart long term investment. As citizens, it’s enlightened self interest to push our state and federal legislators, the ones not beholden to petroleum contributions, to allocate tax dollars to prime the green technology pump. The alternative, failure to invest aggressively, leads to monetary disaster. We would cede this lucrative future to India and China, two nations wasting no time trying to outpace us.
America is poised to become the world leader in green technologies and failure is not an option. With temperatures climbing everywhere, failure would only give new meaning to the phrase that we’d have “a snowball’s chance in hell.”
(Comment by My Green Mind’s I Michael Grossman. We welcome your comments as well.)