Thursday, November 1, 2012

GREEN EDGE | Bloomberg Fairly Endorses Obama's Record

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is right and David Brooks was wrong. Bloomberg has endorsed Obama for re-election today, for his efforts to do something about climate change.

Brooks was dismissive of Obama's green jobs program in a NY Times piece. Brooks argues that people are gloomy about green tech and Obama is to blame. He also mysteriously blames Al Gore, because he was so successful in promoting green issues.

What's wrong with green jobs is the GOP opposition to it in Congress.

1. The green jobs program was not such a failure–most of the investments are working as well as anyone expected from a new government program.

2. The program was predicated on there being a price for carbon, which Brooks supports. The failure to pass any bill on this topic during Obama's first term is the result of GOP congressional intransigence.

The green jobs program has had more of an impact than Brooks allows. He describes the green jobs program solely as a green-tech program, and this leads him to focus exclusively on renewable energy. Yes,  renewable energy is mostly a highly technical area where it is hard to put to work very many people quickly. The workers who assemble and install wind turbines, for example, are likely to be skilled steelworkers. It takes time to recruit and train skilled workers. Therefore progress will be slow.

But the green jobs program had an energy-efficiency component. This was a good idea:

  • In its analysis of the benefits of various alternatives to pursue environmental solutions, increasing the efficiency of U.S. energy use was at the top of McKinsey & Co.'s list. 
  • State governments are pursuing this concept through promotion of energy audits, house by house and neighborhood by neighborhood. 
  • Residential and commercial developers are seeking for their new buildings various green certifications, such as LEED and EnergyStar. 
  • Economists have shown that the owner and renter payoff from energy efficiency is real and substantial. 
  • Companies like Johnson Controls have thrived by retrofitting older buildings with green remedies.
  • Van Jones may have been hounded out of the White House, but his idea of training ex-offenders as a labor pool to work on environmental projects is happening. 
  • Superfund-site remediation is a significant employer of ex-offender trainees and I have personally seen this program at work in New Jersey.
Obama came into Washington with a lot of ideas. He put health care at the top of his list and he got his program through the Congress. The problem he faced next is that the opposition in Congress did not want to let him get anything else through.