Published on December 27th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan0
The Links & Lack of Links Between Cleantech & Politics
December 27th, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
Why does CleanTechnica cover political matters? And why do we so heavily favor Democrats when it comes to US political coverage?
Very simply, the answer to the first question is that political matters are a huge part of the cleantech transition, and the answer to the second question should be evident from these two charts regarding political campaign contributions from oil & gas and coal companies (via OpenSecrets.org):
Odd that coal companies and oil & gas companies spend essentially all of their political investments (aka bribe money) on Republicans and conservative/Republican groups, isn’t it?
Not really — Republican congresspeople vote heavily against clean air, against clean water, against climate action, for unregulated or loosely regulated pollution, for fossil subsidies, and against clean energy and electric cars. Yes, there are instances that you may think contradict that claim — but they are so few in number, especially relative to the instances that support that claim, that you have to ignore basic mathematics or basic logic to say the claim is incorrect.
Given that Americans (including Republicans!) heavily support clean air, clean water, climate action, strongly regulating pollution, cutting fossil subsidies, and supporting clean energy and electric cars, there’s not much explanation for Republican congresspeople’s actions other than outright corruption opposed to the wishes of the American people.
But maybe that’s not enough of an explanation, so I’ll go on.
What That Pollution Money Buys
As one example (or 119 examples) of modern-day Republican extremism on these topics, from the bottom of this November article: “In 2011, House Republicans earned Congress the worst environmental voting record in history. … House Republicans together voted 191 times against environmental measures. In total, that means thousands of anti-environment votes. That included ‘27 votes to block action to address climate change, … 77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections, … 28 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, … [and] 47 votes to weaken protection of public lands and coastal waters.’ This is aside from putting anti-environment ‘poison pills’ into related and unrelated legislation in order to kill it before a vote.”
Also from that article (emphasis added): “A few years later, the League of Conservation Voters also gave House Republicans their worst grade ever in its annual National Environmental Scorecard. ‘House Republicans had the lowest average score since LCV began putting out the scorecard in 1970,’ The Atlantic reported. ‘Average House Republican scores have dropped steadily in recent years, from an average of 17 percent in 2008, to 10 percent in 2012, down to the low average of 5 percent for 2013.'”
Who actually benefits from these anti-environment and anti-climate votes? Not many people. Basically, a small number of super-rich coal barons and oil & gas magnates. These congresspeople’s constituents by and large do not benefit, and do not support such votes. But they do get convinced to vote for Republican congresspeople via one scare tactic or another — a topic for another article.
Yes, I understand the appeal of “small government” ideology. The private sector is often more efficient. But there’s a reason every civilized society has government — if you leave everything up to individual decisions and corporate decisions, you end up with the tragedy of the commons. You’d also end up with certain portions of the population so deficient in basic human needs that I don’t think you could call the society civilized. Government is needed in order to protect the population (to some degree) from pollution, from abuse, and from “excessive” financial manipulation by the super rich.
I think it’s pretty clear that anti-government extremists in Congress are harming the country a great deal on all fronts — the US is far behind many or most developed countries on human livability, socioeconomic equity, clean air & clean water, and an adequate social safety net. The anti-humanity votes noted above should make that clear enough and should make it obvious which party line requires that its congressional members vote on behalf of polluters and against the people.
Missing The Future
There’s another side to the cleantech–policy link as well. Part of supporting cleantech is about cleaning up our air & water and protecting our climate. However, part of it is also about trying to remain on the front end of technological and economic progress.
You have to be heavily influenced by fake news and “top” Republican talking points in order to not see that solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles are primed to dominate the 21st century energy and transportation economy. They are actually primed to dominate these markets quite soon.
If your government tries to support cleantech companies in order to be at the forefront of this transition and disproportionately benefit from it, you are likely to see a bit of the winnings. If your government is aimed at promoting out-of-date, expiring, economically crumbling pollution industries; trying to return us to a pollution era “Again;” and try to obstruct cleantech development, well, it should be unclear to no one that your government is going to harm your economy.
You don’t have to “pick winners & losers” in the cleantech industry to win — you just have to provide good support for the cleantech industry as a whole. But picking the pollution industry when the trends are obvious is choosing to pick losers because of some inherent bias you or your political party are carrying.
There’s a lot of variety in the ways your government (if it has that intent) can try to hasten the transition to cleantech and benefit economically from being on the forefront of that transition globally. Here are just some of the items on the policy menu list:
- Carbon Pricing (only logical in a free market when you have externalities from too much CO2)
- Feed In Tariffs
- Net Metering
- Renewable Energy Standards
- Solar Mandates
- Loan Guarantees
- EV Infrastructure Investment
- EV R&D
- Clean Energy R&D
- Cleantech Hackathons
- Tax Credits & Rebates
- Cleantech Grants
- Guidelines for Smaller Jurisdictions
- Stronger Regulation on Polluting Technologies
- Not Allowing Fossil Fuel Extraction on Public Lands
- Military Procurement of Innovative and Useful Cleantech
- Cleantech Job Training for Veterans
There are also the items recommended here:
If politicians decide to promote the things above, that seems like something CleanTechnica should cover.
If politicians decide to oppose the things above, that seems like something CleanTechnica should cover.