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The Big Green Buy

Mark Hertsgaard and Christian Parenti via McClatchy:

President Barack Obama has the power to unleash dramatic emissions reductions without congressional approval. And in the course of doing so, the president can bring jobs and profits to communities across the nation, even in places represented by climate change deniers such as Sen.-elect Roy Blunt of Missouri.

How? By mobilizing the government's vast purchasing power to kick-start a green energy revolution. Federal spending is responsible for roughly 25 percent of the gross national product, giving Washington enormous power to influence marketplace behavior even if annual spending levels are trimmed.

The federal government is the world's largest consumer of energy and vehicles. If the Pentagon, the Postal Service and other agencies shifted their buying wherever possible from dirty technologies to clean ones, it would give manufacturers such as Smith Electric Vehicles, headquartered in Blunt's state, a huge influx of orders. These orders would yield economies of scale that would enable green manufacturers to substantially reduce prices. ...

Think of it as the Big Green Buy: The government's spending power would be used to close the price gap between dirty and green technologies and stimulate new markets for green technologies.

We know this approach works because it fostered the greatest economic success story in recent American history. Most Americans own computers today because the government not only funded the research and development of microprocessors (as part of the space race) but also became the first large-scale purchaser of the devices. Sustained orders from the Pentagon and NASA helped manufacturers attain economies of scale and reduce prices so consumers eventually could afford their own computers.

A similar green-tech revolution is ours for the taking - if Obama shows the requisite leadership, including the courage to affirm that some forms of government spending are actually good for the economy.

Great idea, and it doesn't take Congress to do it. None of this "Oooooh! The filibuster that we didn't abolish!" nonsense from the Ds and the headline "progressives."

Would this policy make working class people in the US better off? Yes. Would it make the banksters better off? No. Would conservatives go for it? No.

So Barry won't do it. Nice try, guys, but you're wasting your time.

NOTE It's always possible that Barry might announce some kabuki in the SoS. But just like HAMP, HCR, FinReg, StimPack, it's all going to come to nothing, or worse than nothing. Because nothing -- to us -- is what it's Barry's job to deliver, and that's what he's delivering.

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Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

in The Nation back in July. Mark Hertsgaard has been proposing a Global Green Deal since 1998. The nef (the new economics foundation) wrote a whole Green New Deal report in 2008 and the UN jumped on the bandwagon the same year.

How's it going? One opinion in Nature from April of this year says not so well [PDF]: "…most national recovery plans have missed this opportunity to invest in the planet while saving the economy." As lambert would say Quelle surprise.