Saturday, December 08, 2007

California's Greenwashed Leaders

I am truly amazed that California's political leadership has so easily donned the mantle of "green" and have been allowed to get away with it without criticism. In fact, Schwarzenegger, Boxer and Pelosi have become the darlings of the environmental movement while selling out the public with flamboyant speech and flawed policies.

The list of examples is long. I will only focus on what they have said and what they have done regarding energy policy. The House of Representatives has just passed the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 (HR 6). Speaker Pelosi announced this triumph with much rhetorical flamboyancy, calling it the "shot heard round the world" and holding up the baseball with which Bobby Thompson ended the dream of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers. It was truly an example of major arm twisting by a Speaker who rules with a heavy gavel.

I will admit that some of the bill is moving in the right direction. It does include new Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for the first time in many years. It also has major flaws specifically in the manner that it has implemented a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Pelosi considered that part of it's significant achievements.

MSNBC tempers their reporting of some of the benefits with the following:
"We will send our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East," countered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the bill's emphasis on promoting renewable energy sources, especially ethanol, which would see a sevenfold increase by 2022 to 36 billion gallons a year.

Republican Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06), the most articulate and environmentally responsible Republican in Congress, found RFS to be a fatal flaw in this bill and voted, surprisingly to some, against the bill.

What Pelosi is not saying, but what everyone knowledgeable understands, is that you have to be very careful about the choice of technologies and the food vs. energy issues. Every kernel of corn that goes into ethanol is not going into our food supply where it is the primary food for raising livestock, it is a primary food for dairy cattle, it is a major ingredient in most packaged foods. The result, higher food prices for everyone and no reduction in polluting greenhouse gases. It is too bad we can not legislate away the gaseous content of political speech.

As for Boxer, one need look no further than her refusal to take substantive action against commodity subsidies. I have commented on this before. What I did not do there was to make the case that failure to act on subsidies has major environmental implications. We are facing serious water problems in California. The Federal Government and the California Water Project are subsidizing the water to farmers, subsidizing the electric power costs to pump that water and then we are subsidizing the growing of cotton in the desert with it's large scale need for irrigation. This is practicing environmental stupidity for the slight chance that Boxer will get a few more votes in farm country.

And don't get me started on our "green" governor. He is like the Hulk, green when he has to be. Yes, his efforts to improve the transportation sector are beneficial. But he has ignored the building sector and that uses almost twice as much energy as does transportation. In one situation after another, he has acted as a cheerleader for development, even in the flood plains of our rivers, even when we don't have the water to support it. His proposals for a peripheral canal, necessary in his mind to support continued population growth in So Cal, would be a long term disaster for the delta, for agriculture in that area.

Restore the Delta's most recent (12/03/07) newsletter should be an eyeopener to anyone who thinks that Schwarzenegger really cares about the environment. The conclusion here:
Without a doubt those who are pushing for a peripheral conveyance system are influencing each and every process currently unfolding. Yet, we still do not know how freshwater must pass through the Delta in order for the estuary to have good water quality.
At a time when "green" is the word everywhere, when even Honda declares that they are the "greenest car company in America" we need more than greenwashing. We need better leadership.

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