Passing environmental legislation is typically last on Congress\’s list of priorities, and both parties have made that clear time and time again. The Democrats let global warming and cap and trade bills die, fearing that the political repercussions of passing regulative legislation would be greater than the benefits. Republicans simply don\’t want global warming to exist, and they don\’t perceive it to be a prominent threat (even if it might be in the future). Perception is indeed reality, even in Congress.
The bottom line is that the government has diminished environmental interests to the point where they\’re barely relevant in America\’s political discourse. It\’s squashed everything from basic energy reforms to carbon taxes, and buried common-sense regulation (such as adding oversight responsibility to the EPA), fearing rejection by the private sector. As perfectly exemplified by BP\’s oil spill in the Gulf, worrying about what companies like BP think about regulation is a terrible way to make energy policy.
So for people like you and I–people who care about sustainability and a brighter tomorrow–being optimistic (in terms of environmental policy progress over the next two years) is pretty difficult. However, I happen to be a prisoner of hope, and I\’m convinced that there are 5 \’bipartisan\’ green initiatives that can make it to President Obama\’s desk within the next two years.
1. Apply a \’carbon tariff\’ to imports of goods from countries that do not regulate their carbon emissions. While this sounds fairly simple, Congress would need to be fair and reasonable with the amount of the tariff (to prevent major trade disruptions). However, establishing a baseline and setting a global example as a country that genuinely cares about emissions would be a major step forward.
2. Create real incentives for businesses that invest (switch) to pollution-free factories. In my district, for example, a potato chip company, Shearers, re-made its local factory in an effort to reduce its emissions. Because this process added jobs, the factory was visited by the district\’s congressman. I\’m sure Shearers would\’ve rather had more tax incentives instead.
3. Raise the federal gasoline tax, among other externalities, and invest the proceeds directly to the modernization of the U.S transportation system. This would create jobs and the opportunity to make public transportation more energy efficient. If you think raising an externality tax is too liberal to pass a Republican-held House of Representatives, you\’ll be surprised to know that two U.S Senators, one a Republican, called for a $0.25 gas tax hike last month.
4. Invest in hydrogen-powered cargo ships, which essentially means investing in emissions-free shipping. The Ross Barlow hydrogen system could turn global shipping and freight from an emissions juggernaut into a zero-emissions glide across the oceans. Believed to be the world\’s first hydrogen-hybrid canal boat, Ross Barlow\’s system works by storing hydrogen in lithium hydride powder, which can be topped up when it has been exhausted.
5. Have the Department of Education re-examine its suggestions and standards for public schools\’ health/gym classes. As beautifully articulated in another world.edu article, eating disorders are on the rise, and there\’s plenty of evidence that the culture presented in school classrooms promotes inappropriate weight loss (as opposed to an individualized, appropriate lifestyle). Healthier humans means a healthier earth.