Can the looming environmental catastrophe be solved by environmentalists working side by side with Wall Street Bankers? Such a question doesn't deserve a serious answer. The Democrats, however, are attempting to address the issue of global warming by developing a "partnership" between those who love the earth, and those who love only profits.
"As a banker, I also welcome the fact that the 'cap-and-trade' system is becoming the dominant methodology for [carbon dioxide] control."
Simon Linnett, Executive Vice Chairman of Rothschild Bank.
Can the looming environmental catastrophe be
solved by environmentalists working side by side with Wall Street
Bankers? Such a question deserves a serious answer. The
Democrats, however, are attempting to address the issue of global
warming by developing a "partnership" between those who love the earth,
and those who love only profits.
a marriage must surely end in divorce. But the Obama administration is
enjoying maximum political gain from the blissful honeymoon period,
while in reality the honest environmentalists have already left in
disgust, even those previously committed to supporting the Democrats:
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, etc. They rightfully
feel betrayed and point to the Democrats' "Cap-and-Trade" environmental
bill as proof - the same bill that Obama and the media claim to be a
"historic" step forward.
is itself an absurdity of logic, for it assumes that the economic
mechanisms responsible for the destruction of the environment,
capitalism, should be the centerpiece of any potential solution. Any
solution to global warming that isn't market-based (capitalistic) has
been explicitly rejected by the two-party system.
this immediately presents a new problem: how to create a "profitable
market" out of pollution reduction? Such a question can only expect
blank stares in return, but the titans of Wall Street are well known
for sleight of hand tricks that conjure up billions.
it comes to Cap-and-Trade, the government has become Wall Street's
vehicle for quick cash. What will be "traded" in Cap-and-Trade is the
ability to pollute, called "allowances," a commodity that promises to
be sold and speculated by the really big banks - Goldman Sachs, JP
Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, etc. - who already have eco-trading
houses in the U.S., and are simply waiting for the Senate to pass them
a tidal wave of cash. And although Obama originally promised that
corporations would bid for these allowances from the government, the
bill passed by the House demands that only 15 percent be bought, while
the rest is given away at taxpayer expense.
bill also sets a pollution limit or "cap" on designated types of
pollutants, with the companies that exceed the cap having to buy more
"allowances," while those that easily meet the cap may sell their
allowances to the more polluting company. Thus, the intention is for
the worst polluters to have a financial incentive to "go green."
reality, however, giant corporations dominate not only the market, but
Congressmen, exerting maximum influence at the slightest chance their
profits might be threatened. Cap-and-Trade was therefore inbuilt with
easily exploitable loopholes, to the great benefit of Wall Street and
more obvious loopholes are three-fold: the generous size of the
pollution cap, the gigantic amount of free allowances, and the obscure
concept of the "offset" - companies may skirt the already-generous cap
by being "green" elsewhere, such as by starting a coke bottle recycling
program in San Diego or simply purchasing offsets from elsewhere. The
ability to regulate this offset loophole is all but impossible, and
Wall Street has big plans to trade and speculate the device (commodity)
for heavy profit.
Here's what Greenpeace
says about the above loopholes: "[Cap-and-Trade] sets emission
reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even
those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in
the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired
power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions."
key beneficiaries to these loop holes are the especially polluting
corporations, such as the giant agri-corporations, big coal, big oil,
and nuclear power. If you combine the billions in allowance giveaways
with the low cap, you have A LOT of extra allowances to sell on the
market, while also having a free-lease to continue polluting for years.
And the pollution
may be initially worse than what exists currently, since the new law
dismantles portions of the Clean Air Act, specifically the EPA's
ability to regulate carbon emissions. A company, therefore, with a
heavy allotment of allowances and offsets could legally pollute worse
than they could today.
the biggest danger the bill presents is the illusion of progress. The
scientific consensus around global warming is extremely clear: either
we make far-reaching changes in our environmental policy now or face
incredible environmental and social devastation in the not-too-distant
means not simply "moving away" from the use of fossil fuels and
stricter regulation, but immediately building an alternative energy
infrastructure - the mass production of solar panels, windmills, high
speed trains, electric buses and cars, bikes, etc. An amazing
opportunity to accomplish this was missed with the bankruptcy of
General Motors. Instead of using GM's many factories to build for the
future while saving jobs, the Democrats opted for the same broken
system, building gas-guzzling individual cars, while many factories are
to be demolished and the machinery sold for scrap.
path was chosen because of the threat that the commonsense,
environmental option posed: the status quo represented by the
ultra-rich do not like actual change (which is why many of them
endorsed Barack Obama). Instead, they would like society to stay
exactly as it is, since they benefit enormously from it.
there are immense profits to be made in heavy polluting industries,
this money will remain a much higher priority than the environment ever
will under the two-party system. Loopholes, exceptions, allowances, and
offsets will thus maul any attempt to address environmental issues.
actually address the daunting issue of the environment, a wider
perspective is needed, one that transcends both political parties and
the broken economic system they are slavishly dedicated to. If
society's resources are not used for the betterment of society, the
search for profits is destined to destroy the planet.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker and activist living in Portland Oregon.