My friend and long-time labor and peak oil activist Jerry Silberman exposes the faults with the so called “Green Stimulus” act that is being put through Congress at the behest of our president-elect, to be coronated Tuesday.   The trouble is that any “recovery” for capitalism will simply mean more destruction and poverty to recover from.  Capitalism is not sick, it’s the sickness.  We don’t need to heal it, we need to kill it in order to be healed.  Let alone the fact that there simply isn’t any more energy or resources to fuel previous levels of economic growth.  Pumping more dollars into this dead-end economy is like beating on a dead horse.  Sorry folks, show’s over.  We need a new direction, towards an economy where human life and the planet itself are worth more than just money. [alex]

Obama, Recovery, and the Green Economy

by Jerry Silberman

It is worth everyone’s time to take a look at the House draft stimulus plan and think about it from a perspective of peak energy and global warming. There is much that is admirable in the act, but there are larger problems with its failure to go in new directions. Understanding its unspoken premises is helpful.

What the Act does propose is funding deferred maintenance on existing infrastructure and social programs ignored during the Bush years, and clearly many of these upgrades are needed. A look at transportation funding, however, finds 3x as much, $30 billion, for highways compared to $10 billion for transit. Symmetrically, airports get three times as much as Amtrak, although the admitted backlog need is highest for Amtrak. The underlying assumption is that we will not, and should not move away from the primacy of the private automobile. This is underscored by the huge proportion of research and science funding devoted toward developing electric cars. Missing is the arithmetic of energy consumption not only in cars but in an automotive based land use pattern, and an understanding of the realistic potential for renewable electricity.

Speaking of energy, the press release does not define renewables, but we know that “second generation” agrifuels are high on the list, and Obama is pushing for increased ethanol, despite the rapidly growing global consensus that any generation of agrifuels is a disaster on several levels. The logic is very simple – since these fuels at best have a dramatically lower net energy than fossil fuels, and growing them will accelerate the destruction of fertile land, because all the nutrients are removed, not to mention the natural ecosystems destroyed, they cannot meet the need.

While half a billion is allocated for cleaning up nuclear waste, that doesn’t come close to what is needed to secure the nuclear waste we have already produced, let alone more. By continued to fund the chimera of fusion power, among other points, the report underscores what it says, in fact very directly “the next great discovery” is needed to bail us out. This is a classic example of expecting to solve problems using the same ways of thinking which created them. What is really being pursued, or hoped for, is a perpetual motion machine. Its not there.

$7.8 billion is allocated for military projects. While most of this is for hospitals and veterans facilities, and not directly for weapons, it is still war spending, hidden elsewhere in the budget, when it should come from the Pentagon budget, which is still 50 cents of every tax dollar.

The education funding does not include funding the Green Jobs Act, and is overwhelmingly devoted to college education. With increasing numbers of college graduates finding no place to use their education, we need education funds for green jobs, technical, manual, and especially non-industrial agriculture. How many MBA’s does it take to sell pretzels on Market St.?

Over $120 billion is devoted to health care, as supplemental funding for Medicaid, with $30 billion in subsidies to laid off workers to pay their COBRA… other words, to pay private insurance companies. For that much money, we could establish Medicare for All national health, (HR 676) and put many more billions back in the pockets of workers, and the coffers of state and local governments, and make a real contribution to economic recovery.

Finally, the Act talks of $275 billion in tax cuts. With government revenues dropping precipitously as a result of shrinking economic activity, increased government spending needed. With the dollar at risk of becoming a junk bond on the world market, tax cuts are not part of the solution. When our country’s economy was at its most robust, (not to suggest that I think that is a model we want to return to) corporations paid the bulk of taxes in this country, now they pay almost none. Tax cuts on the poor are not needed, rather we need tax increases on the rich.

As he enters office, Obama is asking us to bear with him, that things won’t change immediately, and that there will be problems along the way. If he is asking us to suspend criticism and challenge of the direction he is taking and have faith in his efforts, I submit that that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Support for appropriate actions should not mute our criticism, challenge, and activism on inappropriate actions. There is too much at stake.