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The Earthers' Unsustainable 'Sustainability' Agenda


Two pieces Friday, right on the heels of another yesterday and on top of what we already know (if largely ignore), combined to emphasize just how at sea the lovely, formerly prosperous, but now economically zombified California is dooming itself and its citizenry.

Normally this would call for a Gallic shrug – people get the government they elect, and therefore deserve – but for the inescapable likelihood the federal taxpayer will pick up the tab for a bailout, and that whatever strings come with this bailout they inevitably will not rise to the level of getting rid of the problem.

First was a ClimateWire story (subscription required) with the risible headline, “Calif. sees ‘wake-up call,’ opportunities from China’s green-tech industries”. This exposed California’s vision, to anyone having ventured even the remotest, unblinkered survey of the relevant issues, as a tragic farce.

Reporting on California officials emphasizing their vow to replicate a Chinese manufacturing boom, the story read “In a short period, China went from being ‘barely on the map’ to becoming a leader in green technology, which represents both ‘a wake-up call’ and an opportunity for California, a top state official said this week.”

In short, California sees China making the things, hears widespread if unsupportable rumors that they’re widely using the contraptions, as well, and embarks upon a double-whammy binge of mandating them and heavily subsidizing them.

Californians seem to think the latter just must be the missing link, despite unprecedented federal dollars flowing to these industries. “[A]n ‘unequal playing field’ from Chinese subsidies emphasizes California’s role to support its clean-tech industry,” said Margret Kim, a deputy secretary at the California EPA and head of the agency’s China program. The reporter guilelessly swooned over about Kim’s speech, in summary, “China is now the largest manufacturer of solar panels and the largest energy consumer in the world.”

It’s almost as if this inchoate talking point, misleading for the conclusion it encourages without being untrue, came from a man selling magic beans. No one, it is clear from the rest of the story, has bothered to ask ‘so, that means China is using lots of solar panels, right?’

Er, no. As Bjorn Lomborg wrote just the day before in the Washington Post, “China was responsible for half of the world’s production of solar panels in 2010, but only 1 percent was installed there… solar is responsible for one-half of one-thousandth of 1 percent” of China’s energy.

You see, the Chinese make the things not because they work (they don’t, in any meaningful sense of the word), but to satisfy Western mandates made from political vanity, as well, apparently, as Western policymakers’ lack of intellectual curiosity.

This is California’s “Music Man”. For Simpsons’ fans, it’s their Monorail.

Turning away from ClimateWire I found John Fund’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, reporting on Golden Staters taking a field trip to Texas to find out why it is the destination of 14 of the 70 companies to leave California this year (that’s so far, and as Fund quotes a California business relocation expert – at least one boom industry resulting from all of Cali’s statism – “That’s an average of 4.7 per week, up from 3.9 a week last year”).

Comments include “You can’t build in California, you can’t manage in California and you have to pay a big tax,” and “The red tape is ridiculous…Regulators see developers as wearing a black hat and the environmental laws have run amok.” That is, delay and other expense make California uneconomic.

That all should be instructive though, to people who perpetuate and worsen California’s hostility to the productive sector of the economy, it won’t be. But here’s the rub. “The cost of Chinese factory labor is a paltry 64 cents an hour… For comparison, hourly factory compensation in the U.S. in 2002 was $21.11, and an average of $14.22 in the 30 foreign countries covered by the existing [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics] report.”

This is to say that California cannot compete in the markets for expensive, low-performance goods purchased to satisfy political mandates, not the goods’ merits. That’s baked in California’s economic cake, which is then iced by (unlike China) mandating the gizmos’ use, which only further increases the cost of energy, compounding the cost of doing business there particularly for manufacturing.

It’s really not complicated. But it seems that this problem California vows to double down on arises from breathtaking oversimplification so as to avoid this reality.

So at least for now Greenie Californians’ faith-based conviction of what Lomborg accurately called the “‘Green China’ Myth” fatally clouds their, for lack of a better word, analysis. And San Francisco’s own Barbara Boxer chairs the U.S. Senate committee which, by no coincidence, is trying to nationalize the madness.

Or, I should say, the unsustainable ‘sustainability’ agenda.

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