Sunday, November 09, 2008

Been brown so long, thought it was green: A true(r) green proposal

From an email forward. Interestingly similar to my answer when one friend asked me what I would do, environmentally speaking, if I had a magic wand. I said: widespread and affordable national and local mass transportation. Seriously. That would be pretty fucking nice. Especially because planes are genuinely god-awful environmentally, but it's hard to be a (well-traveled) citizen of the US, much less the world without them (and cars, which you know, are bad, but still not as bad as freaking PLANES, which originally surprised me).

Subject: 2 Year Proposal to Create 2 Million Green Jobs & Reduce Carbon

Here is some food for thought for those of you wanting to create a national Green platform to forward to President-Elect Obama:

On Sept 9th, 2008 a new report on Carbon Reduction & Green Jobs/Economy was released which has some positive proposals that are distinctly different when compared to most green think tanks and green organizations

See page 27 for the $ figures for each state & number of jobs created

1. It calls for the elimination of tax breaks & subsidies for gas & oil companies (it should also include coal & nuclear as well)

2. It puts retrofitting buildings at the top of the solutions list-which is the fastest way to reduce CO2 (along with phase out of all coal plants) cheapest, fastest job creator, most easily implementable solution-the lowest hanging of the low hanging fruit

3. It puts public transit & freight rail among the 6 top solutions-including reducing public transit fares by massive federal support

4. Fuel efficient motor vehicles are NOT on the list-

The green think tanks & national green organizations' absolute OBSESSION with fuel efficient motor vehicles: plug-ins, hybrids, biofuel, hydrogen, etc. is a major diversion and roadblock to solutions which are much more important, create many more jobs and reduce carbon much faster.

This point on cars will provoke a response from many, but before you respond take 5 minutes to research how much CO2 is generated by the creation of cement-it is one of the most CO2 intensive industrial/chemical processes on earth.

What we need to do is massively expand the public transit infrastructure-double it in 5 years & reduce the absolute number of cars ASAP and begin to tear up some roadways once a public transit infrastructure is in place

For those of you in places like Chicago, where flooding will be more frequent & severe (like occurred in August), at least 10% of concrete & asphalt will have to be eliminated in the next 10 years to recreate some of Chicago's original natural wetland/swamp to absorb the water from huge deluges which are part of climate change that has already begun for the upper midwest

This report is far from perfect-it still calls for cap & trade & lists biofuels as one of the 6 priorities without explaining much about them

& the end of the report are John Podesta's (former Clinton chief of staff) views including a pitch for "clean coal" one of greatest oxymoron's every created

However, there is no perfect world (yet) so we must take the positive and build on that

Here is the link & preface to the report with the report to follow:

"The Center for American Progress releases a new report by Dr. Robert Pollin and University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute economists. This report demonstrates how a new Green Recovery program that spends $100 billion over two years would create 2 million new jobs, with a significant proportion in the struggling construction and manufacturing sectors. It is clear from this research that a strategy to invest in the greening of our economy will create more jobs, and better jobs, compared to continuing to pursue a path of inaction marked by rising dependence on energy imports alongside billowing pollution.

The $100 billion fiscal expansion that we examined in this study provides the infrastructure to jumpstart a comprehensive clean energy transformation for our nation, such as the strategy described in CAP’s 2007 report, “Capturing the Energy Opportunity: Creating a Low-Carbon Economy.” This paper shows the impact of a swift initial investment in climate solutions that would direct funding toward six energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies:

* Retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency
* Expanding mass transit and freight rail
* Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems
* Wind power
* Solar power
* Advanced biofuels

This green recovery and infrastructure investment program would:

* Create 2 million new jobs nationwide over two years
* Create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than a similar amount of spending directed toward household consumption.
* Create roughly triple the number of good jobs—paying at least $16 dollars an hour—as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.
* Reduce the unemployment rate to 4.4 percent from 5.7 percent (calculated within the framework of U.S. labor market conditions in July 2008).
* Bolster employment especially in construction and manufacturing. Construction employment has fallen from 8 million to 7.2 million over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse. The Green Recovery program can, at the least, bring back these lost 800,000 construction jobs.
* Provide opportunities to rebuild career ladders through training and workforce development that if properly implemented can provide pathways out of poverty to those who need jobs most. (Because green investment not only creates more good jobs with higher wages, but more jobs overall, distributed broadly across the economy, this program can bring more people into good jobs over time.)
* Help lower oil prices. Moderating domestic energy demand will have greater price effects than modest new domestic supply increases.
* Begin the reconstruction of local communities and public infrastructure all across America, setting us on a course for a long-term transition to a low-carbon economy that increases our energy independence and helps fight global warming. Currently, about 22 percent of total household expenditures go to imports. With a green infrastructure investment program, only about 9 percent of purchases flow to imports since so much of the investment is rooted in communities and the built environment, keeping more of the resources within the domestic economy.

Our report looked at investments that were funded through an increase in near-term government spending, which could ultimately be repaid by future carbon cap-and-trade revenues. These sources of new investment included the following funding mechanisms:

* $50 billion for tax credits. This would assist private businesses and homeowners to finance both commercial and residential building retrofits, as well as investments in renewable energy systems.
* $46 billion in direct government spending. This would support public building retrofits, the expansion of mass transit, freight rail, smart electrical grid systems, and new investments in renewable energy
* $4 billion for federal loan guarantees. This would underwrite private credit that would be extended to finance building retrofits and investments in renewable energy."


Daktari said...

Speaking to you from a university that runs on coal electricity, from states (as a resident and a native)that make their living on coal, I have to say that weaning us off the stuff might exacerbate the poverty of already impoverished areas of the country. When the government taketh away, the government has an obligation to giveth. Can we concede that we DO need to get off the coal pipeline and we DO also need to put some of these new green jobs into coal country?

I haven't had time to study your post in depth (although it does, in fact, rock my socks off). I'm with you 100% on the mass transit thing. For my part, I have already decided that upon leaving school, I'm trading in my motor vehicle for a home in an urban center with convenient and efficient public mass transportation. I am ready. Ready Freddie. I will live in the city. I will give up having pets. I will take the train across the country. I will modify my lifestyle. I will walk and bike to work. (Although my experiences biking in Chicago were ultimately unsuccessful because I was nearly run over by cars a number of times.) 90% of my decision was made by my frustration with traffic and commute times. I'm done with all that.

Sorry, I've fizzled. Forgot my point. Yup. Sure did.

Daktari said...

Just a few more thoughts.

Just so you know, in heaven and a perfect world, pecan pie and sweet potato casserole would be non-fattening. That's how I'll know we're there.

What I don't see in this plan, and again, I haven't followed your links, is any statement of the need to re-think our communities. We need neighborhoods with neighborhood stores, not mega malls and super WalMarts 5 and 10 miles away. And in the far west and north Chicago suburbs, folks were converting cornfields to subdivisions as fast as humanly possible (and with the completely incompetent rubber stamping by city councils that couldn't see any farther than the tip of their tax rolls) AND without any thought given to how they were going to handle the increased burden on their schools, let alone where they were going to get the energy to run those homes. And with as fast as those houses went up, you can bet they skimped on quality construction.

And how do the poor retrofit their houses? No amount of tax credits for retrofitting is going to hit those households who are struggling to keep food on the table and heat in the house they have. Once again, the people who can most afford high fuel prices are the ones who can afford the steps necessary to reduce their fuel consumption, while those at the bottom of the ladder can't.

The thing about revolution is, you have to be revolutionary (and inclusive) in your thinking. Everything should be questioned from city planning to assistance for the poor, to overturning those rules that prevent people who invest in solar panels from selling their excess back to the electric company. This is the time for BIG THINKING, thinking far beyound just hybrid/biofuel conundrum.

J said...

Woah there hey there ho there, kid. I myself only skimmed this document -- it's quite certainly not a comprehensive list of programs. I just thought it had a good point in regards to "efficient vehicles" and made a point I'd made in the past. I haven't even followed the links. It just didn't have any glaring horriblenesses as far as I could tell.

But your points are well taken, consideration of social issues are always a necessary part of the equation. I have too few ideas, proposals, analyses and things I'd like to know more about in regards to this area, and too much time to consider them in. Wait, strike that, reverse it.

Your points are all good ones, and ones that should be done justice to in their consideration... at some later time.

Daktari said...

See how I get when I'm passionate about things? LOL

And don't get me wrong. I think this is a great start. My problem with most think tanks is this: believe it or not, they seldom go far enough.

Now is the time to stop saying "how can we ease into green living" and time he started saying "how can revolutionize our lifestyles". I think the time for subtle approaches is gone. Who knows if we are living on peak oil? Who knows how climate change is going to impact food availability, disease, and all that in the next two or three decades?

There are times (think the large-scale adoption of electricity) that demand not a patchwork or piece-meal approach, but radical rethinking of the entire community concept. This is one of 'em.

Nothing will give me greater satisfaction in my life than the day I clip those wires that connect me to anyone's grid.