Sunday, August 27, 2006

Because you can't expect the federal government do anything these days

Local governments are taking the lead on environmental regulations. States on down to cities are passing their own laws for things such as milage requirements for autos as well as emission restrictions. Of course, as the article says, this is just part of a movement by the states to take the lead on getting more things done. I think an unintended side-effect of the Bush administration's policies has been to make the states a lot more active. Not that California hasn't always been, but this is a very large movement right now.

This flurry of action is part of a growing movement among state and local leaders who have given up hope that Congress and the administration will tackle major issues, and are launching their own initiatives on immigration, stem cell research and energy policy. Last week alone, former president Bill Clinton launched an effort with 22 of the world's largest cities to cut their emissions, while California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said they will explore trading carbon dioxide pollution credits across the Atlantic.

Just because the federal government has proven (under Bush, of course) to be so unwilling to step up and take actions that could even be perceived as anti-business or anti-wealthy, he's creating a system of liberal federalism by default.

Recently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have set standards demanding that utilities generate a specific amount of energy -- in some cases, as high as 33 percent -- from renewable sources by 2020. And 11 states have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Now you can debate whether this is a good or bad development all you want. The fact is it's a necessary development. As the writer says, government on the state level is much closer to their constituency. They have to respond.

"State and local governments are less removed from their constituents, so they're more responsive to voters' concerns," said Profeta, who sits on North Carolina's climate-change commission and has met with British officials on the subject. "Climate change is on people's minds, and they're asking for action."

And this is not because the Democratic party or national organizations are scaring people. Obviously, for so many states and cities to be taking action, the residents have to want it. Mayors aren't typically in the front leading the revolution, you know, but in this case, they are.

"Like most mayors, I'm disappointed the federal government has not taken more of a lead on this issue, but so be it. We're moving forward," said Albuquerque Mayor Martin J. Chavez, who is expanding public transportation in his city and has persuaded some other U.S. mayors to pledge to make their cities' buildings carbon-neutral by 2030, meaning their net carbon dioxide emissions would be zero.

Naturally, there are opponents to this approach. And of course, they're businesses who fear people hurting their bottom line.

The automakers are suing to block California's law, however, and the Bush administration may block it on the grounds that it amounts to usurping the federal government's right to set national fuel economy standards.

Margo Thorning, senior vice president of the American Council for Capital Formation, said this array of state regulations could harm the U.S. economy.

"I don't think it's terribly helpful to have the industry wondering what are the car standards in California vis-a-vis the standards in Arizona," said Thorning, whose think tank is funded in part by Exxon Mobil Corp. "It adds a lot of uncertainty and slows the kind of investment we'd like to see in the U.S."

You know, I don't believe in that "The business of business is business" crap. Every American has a civic duty to the nation. Why don't we hold businesses to that same standard? You can't hurt the nation at your own profit, or at least, you can't if you're an individual, but heck, once you incorporate it's your sacred duty to make money, no matter how much it hurts your nation. The time has come to end that viewpoint. The business of business is to support their nation, just like the rest of us. We have to start making changes to our environmental policies before it's too late. We have to be focused on 100-200 years from now, not 10-20. We have to be focused on making a life for everyone in the future, not just ourselves in our own lifetimes.

If the US government won't do the job, then hell yeah the states and cities should do it. We're the ones who provide the day-to-day services for citizens anyway. We're the ones who pick up the trash, repair the streets, make sure the sewers run, provide the schools and libraries, and inspect the restaurants. If we have to protect our citizens because the federal government won't, then we ought to go ahead and do that. But I'm hopeful about this one. More and more people are getting upset with the idea that humans are ruining the environment. It's time for the Bush administration to quit appeasing the money-men and make some changes.

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