March 2009 | Commentary | Checking In

A Speaking Truth to Power

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In a monumental case of bait and switch, the current White House administration is set upon a course that will handicap every U.S. worker and business, and give global economic advantage to all who are not lucky enough to live here.

Energy policy—specifically, the carbon offset cap and trade plan—will transfer wealth to the government at every supply chain touch from raw material to your household and back again. This magisterial magic is usually accomplished by finding a victim, becoming the savior, and appropriating power and wealth to get the "saving" done. What better victim could government have but the entire planet? No one wants to be against Earth, right?

I can't help thinking that if it were truly all about carbon-driven global warming, the Obama administration would levy a prepaid carbon offset import fee on every product from countries spewing carbon indiscriminately. After all, the air over there is the same as here. Why just burden domestic enterprises, workers, and consumers? I am sure other countries are as concerned about global warming as our policy-makers are. They can't all be against Earth, and will gladly help pay the costs the administration deems necessary, right? Good luck with that one.

I also can't help thinking that if these initiatives were really all about carbon, the administration would trash 35 years of their party's paranoia about the only zero-carbon power source currently in use: nuclear. That anti-nuke fear is largely the reason why we are all stewing in our own carbon juices right now.

Here is a calming answer to fear about nuclear waste. More than two decades ago an actor, a priest, and a union shipyard worker joined forces to talk Mikhail Gorbachev out of an empire, eventually resulting in the decommissioning of almost 10,000 nuclear weapons. Where are all those fearsome things? Wherever they are, let's put the spent rods in the same place. Next.

If you work in a business that uses electricity, here is an interesting point to consider. The New York Times reported last year that rates at just one utility, Duke Energy, could rise up to 160 percent to cover the outlay for offsetting carbon credits. If that power was not generated by natural gas and evil coal, offsets would not be needed and we could power everything we need to build wealth with near-zero carbon output. Instead, any product or service we sell domestically—and especially internationally—will have to factor in all these extra costs. If you are involved in the movement of product, tack on all the fuel-related offsets, too. If only our leaders were thinking clearly 30 years ago and prevented this. Clear thinking is needed now, but the mindset in Washington seems set in stone.

The cap and trade and power policy currently being pushed on us has us standing at an economic precipice. If our leaders don't back away, it will be a very long way down. If you believe as I do, now is the time to act. Start speaking truth to power before it is too late.

READERS RESPOND:

I was shocked that a publisher of a magazine would take a stand and encourage others to act.

Your column was excellent. Dropping our tax rate, not boosting it with cap and trade, would increase manufacturing in the United States while polluting less. The short-sighted environmentalists can't seem to see beyond our own borders. Do anti-domestic drilling environmentalists think Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, or Russia will drill greener than the United States?

David Brown, Founder, Waterbea

It is upsetting that someone with your stature would suggest "just sticking rods" (nuclear waste) in the same place as the rest of it. That happens to be one of the most ill-conceived and uneducated things I have heard in a very long time.

Two thirds of the world's carbon problem is due to the burning of finite fossil fuels. And these same fuels "fuel" war that costs money to fuel. So we should just spend all our sweat equity on gas for our cars so we can go to work and get taxed to pay for more expensive fuel due to the wars we are paying for?

Oh, and to put a cherry on top of that pie, let's put nuclear waste into the ground with the rest of the world's problems. I believe that we, as Americans, should lead by example and start the world heading in the right direction. You, dear sir, should spend the rest of your life with the nuclear waste you wish to bury. There is probably plenty of room there for you and all the money you'll save if we push back on the current administration's efforts to improve the planet.

Pete Charriere, Ex-reader

KEITH BIONDO REPLIES:

One criticism of my column was that cap and trade is not about logistics. But it is. You can spend your time eking out drops of efficiency—save a nickel here or use the latest technology to save a dollar there—only to have all those efforts washed away in a cap and trade tsunami.

Other points to consider—automaker Tata recently introduced the $2,000, five-seat Nano in India, and China's auto sales surpassed the United States for the past three months. We are looking at 10 million new carbon-producing cars coming online in the next decade, but not in the United States. You cannot stop those people from wanting and buying cars. By the Obama Administration's own estimates, even if we put pinwheels all across America, we won't offset our own output, much less 10 million non-eco-friendly cars. That's just one carbon tick point. There are others.

Another criticism was that my column was political and not appropriate for a trade magazine. I've been writing about energy for 20 years, and studying energy policy for an even longer time. Cap/trade isn't a political issue. Democrat, Independent, Republican, liberal, moderate, conservative, oblivious—cap and trade will touch us all.

Over the past 40 years, the government abrogated its responsibility to provide cheap, low-carbon power to its citizens and now it wants to balance the global carbon books on the backs of millions of U.S. blue- collar workers?

People in the media, like me, have the access, resources, and time to study issues such as cap and trade, and inform those of you who have to work for a living. I stand by my opinion: Cap/trade is a destructive way to change carbon behavior any time, and given current circumstances, certainly not now.

The government ought to be incenting behavioral changes, not dis-incenting or destroying the manufacturing class and the worker class that supports it.

Don't take my word for it. I urge you to get informed quickly. Then reach out to your elected representatives, the media, and your peers, and start speaking your own truth to power.

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