Monday, April 14, 2014
As the NYT writes yet another hand-wringing report about the good, albeit inadequate, job we're doing on the climate change front, even though we're closing in on doubling the amount of CO2 we're pouring into the atmosphere since the Kyoto protocols were signed, it becomes more and more like an "Alice in Wonderland" or, probably more appropriate, "Through the Looking Glass" world.
At the conference in Berlin, it was claimed that there is not only still time to avert the worst, but there's also the rising political will to do so, however it's made manifest that instead, just the opposite is true, by one single necessity: that industry pay for their emissions. But, as we all know, even though we all deny it, because we have to since it is the big lie we all live by, which is that the structure of Capitalism cannot afford to pay for any of its what, in polite circles, we prefer to refer to as "Externalities", which, of course, amounts to nothing more than the true costs of their operations. When Capitalist enterprises were forced to pay for, as threatened in the US by laws that required clean air and clean water, or pension funds or health care for their workers, its true costs, Capitalism's industries fled the country in what can only be described as a rout, for the shores of the only remaining Communist power on the Globe, Red China.
It is only by sloughing off the true costs of doing business onto the rest of society, which is forced to do the work for them without getting paid a nickel for it, the Banks being the most egregious example of that at the moment as they unabashedly flay the economy to extract every red cent they can by buying politicos to allow them to sell what they call "products", to citizens whereby all the risk is pushed onto the purchaser, all the profits into their pockets, and then hire phalanxes of lawyers and accountants to assure they don't have to pay any taxes on said profits, what is the chance, or even the possibility, that any industry is going to pay for the privilege of burning coal to furnish you with something that you're demanding anyway? At the lowest cost possible, to boot, and not 'cause you're too cheap, but because you simply don't get paid anything for working 60 hours a week (if you include the commute time) beyond what it costs you to buy and maintain your own carbon-spewing machine that is the only method possible for you to get to the carbon-spewing factory you go to to obtain your pittance in the first place.
Which is a very good example of industry having no responsibility for externalities, even though without them they couldn't exist. The carbon that's necessary to get a workforce to the plant and back every day of the week every week of the year, isn't even among the factors the panel in Berlin is considering, and yet, in toto, it is the largest source of car-bon pollution, and that source is growing at an unprecedented pace, as, if it doesn't, every modern economy, each of which has lashed itself to the same profit machine of the internal COMBUSTION engine (notice how seldom you hear that word when talking of the largest source of mechanized combustion in existence?) would collapse. The only thing keeping the retail numbers in the positive in the US, for example, are car sales, and those are kept high, not only by channel stuffing, but by strangling consumer credit for other goods by providing it at no cost to people with lower and lower credit rating scores so that they may purchase their own private pollution engine.
This is the path that brought GMAC, now ALLY Bank, to its knees a mere 6 years ago, requiring that the taxpayer save it from extinction, as its liabilities were tentacled through the rest of the TBTF banks (yes GMAC was actually a TBTF institution) and the reason is exactly the one stated above. There is no economy without the car, and there is no amelioration of the carbon intensity of our industrialized societies without that particular problem being addressed. Because, to put it quite simply: no car, no modernity. The "Washington Consensus" crumbles to dust.
So we now have this TBTF institution, meaning that, even as it goes "private", which means that we will once again allow the criminals who run it to skim off whatever they deign necessary to maintain their much-vaunted lifestyle while they sneer at the rest of us, but which, when its liabilities bring it once more to the brink of insolvency, will become the taxpayers' liabilities again, greasing the skids of carbon pollution even as we all pretend that the two aren't related, our egos being that inextricably entwined with our cars, a machine that, whether electric, hydrogen, nat-gas, whatever the F*ck you fuel it with, is not now, nor ever will be, a "Green" machine.
Which, all-in-all, makes the picture they presented, as printed in the NYT, in Berlin really easy to assess: Nothing, but nothing is going to change; it's all merely the same ole, "Don't worry; move along, nothing to see here", as we continue to pretend we're doing "something" about Climate Change, even as that something translates into actually accelerating it.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 5:38 PM