A Guide On How Not to Go 'Green'

| by William O Keefe

In the wake of the Copenhagen international climate agreement -- which contains the binding potential of WD-40 -- people worldwide are taking desperate measures to reduce emissions. In this pursuit, Danish shipping giant Maersk has adopted a peculiar business maxim: Slower is better. The company recently boasted that it’s doubling shipping times in an effort to cut emissions.

This seemingly backwards commerce decision can only be understood in the context of the global emissions reduction debate -- where backwards is better.

China wants to be a global superpower, spending billions annually to grow its military and strengthen its economic reach to gain equal footing with the US on the world stage. Mention greenhouse gas emissions, and they’ll shuffle their feet, stare at the floor, and claim to be a developing nation in need of economic support to achieve any reductions.

EU nations, trying to take the lead on “green” policy, have set an example. But it’s not necessarily a good one. The European coalition has inadvertently written the “How Not to Go ‘Green’” guide through their cap and trade scheme that:

a)      Failed to meet emissions reduction targets;

b)      Created higher and more volatile energy prices;

c)      Invited extensive lobbying for free handouts and other benefits (such jockeying that would even impress Sea Biscuit); and

d)      Encouraged business investment to go elsewhere.

In the US, a lack of creative policy-making and growing wariness of ever present special interest has buried climate legislation deeper than the ratings of the ill-fated Late Night Show with Conan O’Brien. It’s little wonder Sen. Evan Bayh cited his reason for choosing to retire from Congress as “there’s just too much brain-dead partisanship, tactical maneuvering for short-term political advantage rather than focusing on the greater good.” Adding to that, concerns over recently discovered errors by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- which might as well just pull its information off of Wikipedia like the rest of us -- have left those genuinely interested in passing an effective climate policy looking for better, more transparent solutions.

Better options to curb emissions are out there. So rather than push our lawmakers to follow organizations like Maersk and grind our economy to a halt, we need to start a healthy debate over viable alternatives. Let’s get the ball rolling before we have to turn our technological clocks back and get out NetFlix via the Pony Express.

If these well intentioned missteps didn’t waste resources and divert attention from more serious matters, they could be considered comical. As Will Rogers observed, “I don’t tell jokes. I just watch the government and then report the facts.” He would have had a field day with these latest “facts.”


William O’Keefe, chief executive officer of the George C. Marshall Institute, is president of Solutions Consulting Inc.