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Publicly Owned Banks: A Multi-Purpose Solution

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Dependence on fossil fuels has not only damaged the global environment, it has also become a major factor in the devastation of the world economy. Most of us accept and support the idea that we need to convert to renewable energy if we are to heal our environment. The fact that doing so could launch a positive transformation in our economy at the same time, and create millions of new green jobs for all of us, is even better.

Yet transitioning to renewable energy will require a lot of money. Where will it come from? I have not seen any of that stimulus money. Have you? And what about the Wall Street bankers who got those mind blowing bailouts that are costing us, our children and our children's children obscene amounts of money? Dream on. They and other traditional financial sources are not stepping up to support that objective.

Is there any other solution? You bet there is and it comes from an unlikely source "" us!

To understand how, lets take a look at some key concepts that we can build upon, beginning with the ideas put forth by attorney Ellen Brown through her book Web Of Debt and her many articles found on We feel that Ellen is right on target, but in order to realize her goal faster and easier, we've added one more element. So let's see what she proposes and what we would add to her concept.

Ellen's analysis and solution center around three key ideas:

  1. The vast majority of money in circulation comes from loans made by banks (not the government) and the money for those loans is created with accounting entries only.
  2. Those banks are corporations who represent their owners and not the public.
  3. The government should have the right to create money for society, not just private industry, with the profit going to the benefit of the public. Having the government own banks would satisfy that objective and serve the public's need.

Why is a government-owned bank significant and what does that have to do with energy and the greening of our economy? The Bank of North Dakota serves as a good model. Facing similar credit conditions to those plaguing the economy today, North Dakota formed its own bank in 1919.

State law requires the state to deposit its revenues in its own bank. Those deposits allow North Dakota to use existing bank lending1 laws to create "new money" in the form of loans to itself, businesses, farmers, students and others, and drive its own economy in the direction it chooses, for example, with 1% loans to farmers. If they can do it, so can other states and the federal government.

Using green banks to green our economy

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To achieve the twin goals of getting our economy moving again and protecting our environment, green lending is an ideal goal for government-owned banks that could provide the financing to help convert our economy to renewable energy and conservation.

However, getting the requisite legislation to enable such banks passed is difficult. Why? Money and the banking corporations would oppose it at every turn. Thus we can neither expect a solution from the big banks who created our economic problems, nor from the one group that should be there to protect the public interest "" the government. Is there another way?

The solution is in our hands

There is one group we can turn to for a solution "" us!

We can use the one other institution dedicated to exclusively serving the public good "" the non-profit corporation. Under the very same rules and systems governing private banks, we can setup publicly owned green banks under non-profit corporations. Private banks could not oppose these green banks without damaging their ability to maintain their own banking business.

But can a non-profit own a green bank?" Yes! They can own banks just like any for-profit entity. In that case, why hasn't anyone done it? They have "" in Oakland, CA. Here's how they did it

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A bank owned by a non-profit

A non-profit corporation was formed called OneCalifornia Foundation. The foundation established a separate, wholly owned, for-profit corporation, OneCalifornia Bank, set up with millions of dollars in donations from a wealthy couple. Its mission is to "improve economic opportunity for low- to moderate-income communities," and all profits flow up into the foundation for further benefit to the community.

In OneCalifornia Bank we see a model for other such banks. Establishing a bank is not all that difficult, with the key difference that instead of raising capital from private investors, funds need to be raised through non-profit fundraising mechanisms.

One good way to blend Ellen Brown's idea of a government-owned bank with this non-profit approach, is for the state to pass a bill allocating the approximate $10 million dollars needed to establish such a bank for the public's benefit and provide those funds as a grant to a non-profit. This kind of bill would be easier to get through the legislature (even in California) than a bill to establish a state-owned bank.

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Michael Sauvante is a California entrepreneur with over 30 years business experience. He has founded and run over a half dozen small companies, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Along the way he accumulated a great deal of (more...)

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