America’s neocon idealogues are finally on the defensive. As support mounts for a Green New Deal, and Obama’s transition team outline plans to reverse many of Dubya’s decisions on the environment, the bloggers at the Heritage Foundation are most definitely on the back foot, bizarrely arguing that any sort of environmental regulation is going to harm small businessess, curtail civil liberties and generally wreck our lives. Energy scientist Joseph Romm points out the intellectual bankruptcy of such arguments at the GristMill, while defending the calls for a Green New Deal.
The Leader suggests, quite correctly, that the first, best means to deal with climate change is a carbon pricing regime. But beyond that there are plenty of economically acceptable investments that might make up part of the stimulus, and which might also be considered green.
So with the neoliberals second-guessing themselves, we might finally see some economic epiphanies from our politicians. In Ireland, Energy Minister and Green Party TD Eamon Ryan has announced a financial incentives promoting the use of electric cars, green retrofitting and microrenewables – and he’s calling it a “Green New Deal”. In Washington, the Worldwatch Institute have been urging G20 leaders to embrace a Green New Deal. Of course, the G20 went back to their respective homes repeating the mantra of growth-at-all-costs – but maybe that will start to sound tired in a few months time. And even if he hasn’t given up on the growth fetish, Gordon Brown continues to warm to the idea of a Green New Deal, writing in the Observer:
we must be more ambitious still – building green companies and green jobs as we make the transition to a low-carbon economy; and expanding private and public investment in the new technological infrastructure of the 21st century as the modern equivalent of the new deal investments made in roads and bridges in the 20th century.
Mr Brown adds that ‘we are seeing not just the collapse of failed institutions but the collapse of a failed laissez-faire dogma’. Absolutely. Now let’s just hope he has the courage to forge a new and different kind of economy.
But before we get too excited, we should note that President-Elect Barack Obama is, disappointingly, sticking to his free market guns. In his first interview since the election, Obama
ruled out a New Deal type solution but said he wanted to send a message to Americans that “we’re going to be thinking about them and what they’re going through”.
“For us to simply recreate what existed back in the 30s in the 21st century – I think would be missing the boat,” Obama said. “I think the basic principle that government has a role to play in kick-starting an economy that has ground to a halt is sound. I think our basic principle that this is a free market system and that that has worked for us, that it creates innovation and risk taking – I think that’s a principle that we’ve got to hold to as well.”
Seems there’s still a lot of work to do.