21st Century Agenda for America

Download Internet Explorer, Plant a Tree

Download the latest version of Internet Explorer, plant a tree.  In its newest marketing drive, Microsoft will help you reduce your carbon footprint by planting a tree in CarbonGrove when you downlod the free upgrade of IE.  For the company that leveraged its operating system to gain almost 100% share of the brower market, this is an interesting move that testifies to the traction that carbon consciousness has achieved.  To learn more, click here.


Energy Insanity

Thomas Friedman has a great column in today's New York Times on America's upside down energy policy that continues to subsidize consumption of fossil fuels while meting out credits for wind and solar power like Bumble the Beadle offering porridge to Oliver Twist. At the very moment when oil prices are shooting through the roof, the leading candidates are proposing to eliminate the gas tax this summer. Yet rather than extend the far less expensive Production Tax Credit to sustain investment in solar and wind power due to expire this year, Congress is dragging its heels.

Quoting Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Friedman points out that the US has gone from enjoying 40% market share in solar power in 1997 to only 8% today. Already because of the lead time involved in renewable energy projects, many have been canceled, harming America's fledgling renewables industry. Here is the article in its entirety:

Dumb as We Wanna Be

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.

But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

Are you sitting down?

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices slip back down again — which often happens — investments in wind and solar would still be profitable. That’s how you launch a new energy technology and help it achieve scale, so it can compete without subsidies.

The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by taking away tax credits from the oil industry. President Bush said he would veto that. Neither side would back down, and Mr. Bush — showing not one iota of leadership — refused to get all the adults together in a room and work out a compromise. Stalemate. Meanwhile, Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years. Ours, at best, run two years.

“It’s a disaster,” says Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy, one of the biggest wind-power developers in America. “Wind is a very capital-intensive industry, and financial institutions are not ready to take ‘Congressional risk.’ They say if you don’t get the [production tax credit] we will not lend you the money to buy more turbines and build projects.”

It is also alarming, says Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, that the U.S. has reached a point “where the priorities of Congress could become so distorted by politics” that it would turn its back on the next great global industry — clean power — “but that’s exactly what is happening.” If the wind and solar credits expire, said Resch, the impact in just 2009 would be more than 100,000 jobs either lost or not created in these industries, and $20 billion worth of investments that won’t be made.

While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.

In 1997, said Resch, America was the leader in solar energy technology, with 40 percent of global solar production. “Last year, we were less than 8 percent, and even most of that was manufacturing for overseas markets.”

The McCain-Clinton proposal is a reminder to me that the biggest energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be serious — the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout.


Candidates talk energy policy

Americans have dealt with significant increases in their costs of living during the Bush administration. One of the most significant is rising energy costs, most visibly seen in high prices at the pump. This issue has suddenly found itself at the center of the Presidential campaign in the form of a proposal to suspend the gas tax for the summer, saving the average American, according to estimates, at most about $30 over that time.

From the New York Times:

As angry truckers encircled the Capitol in a horn-blaring caravan and consumers across the country agonized over $60 fill-ups, the issue of high fuel prices flared on the campaign trail on Monday, sharply dividing the two Democratic candidates.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.

While Mr. Obama’s view is shared by environmentalists and many independent energy analysts, his position allowed Mrs. Clinton to draw a contrast with her opponent in appealing to the hard-hit middle-class families and older Americans who have proven to be the bedrock of her support. She has accused Mr. Obama of being out of touch with ordinary Americans who are struggling to meet their mortgages and gas up their cars and trucks.

Mrs. Clinton said at a rally on Monday morning in Graham, N.C., that she would introduce legislation to impose a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and use the revenue to suspend the gasoline tax temporarily.

"At the heart of my approach is a simple belief," Mrs. Clinton said. "Middle-class families are paying too much and oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump."

Mrs. Clinton said the tax on the oil companies, which have been reporting record profits as oil prices soar, would cover all of the lost revenue from the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. She also said no highway projects would suffer.

Mr. Obama derided the McCain-Clinton idea of a federal tax holiday as a "short-term, quick-fix" proposal that would do more harm than good, and said the money, which is earmarked for the federal highway trust fund, is badly needed to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges.

Here at NDN, we are pleased to see the candidates addressing energy reform and discussing America’s weakening infrastructure. NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan recently wrote a paper about the need to invest in America’s infrastructure, and the Green Project has been promoting a long term solution to America’s energy needs. Going forward, we encourage the candidates to incorporate long term solutions these issues into their policy prescriptions.



Do you need to know how to use a computer to be president?

Watch for John McCain's response about 30 seconds in. Is this his "grocery store scanner" moment?

Last year, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a paper proposing univerisal access to computer training through our nation's community colleges. Senator Obama embraced the proposal as part of his community college plan. Under a hypothetical Obama Administration, John McCain might want to consider signing up to take classes.

H/T Matt Ortega at the DNC.

Obama's Focus Turns to "Everyday People"

Following a double digit loss in the Ohio primary and a high single digit loss in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama’s campaign is undergoing what First Read has termed a “re-launch,” and focused on the economic woes of everyday people. Articles appeared today in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal about this style and policy shift designed to pursue the blue-collar votes that have recently proven elusive for him.

From the Washington Post:

Sen. Barack Obama came this past weekend to this factory town, where the loss of hundreds of jobs at the Delphi auto parts plant was only the latest blow, and told 2,000 voters that the way to fix things was not just to vote for him -- but to join a bottom-up mass movement to change the way government works.

He didn't put it that way exactly. But in a noteworthy shift, the Illinois senator is trying to reach working-class and middle-class voters by arguing more explicitly that the reform ideas driving his campaign can address the economic troubles that threaten their way of life. Supplanting lobbyist influence with citizen activism, uniting the country beyond petty partisan gamesmanship and bringing more candor to government, he argues, are not just abstract goals, but concrete steps that can level the playing field and lead to a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth.

"When we push back the special interests, when we unify the country, when we speak honestly with the American people about our challenges, there's nothing we can't accomplish, nothing we can't do," he said here. "When we unify the country, we will change our economy."

Much also has been made about the cosmetic changes the campaign is undergoing. Obama recently showed off his basketball skills in Indiana (where the sport is sacrosant), and has reverted to a common practice from earlier in the campaign: going without coat and tie and rolling up his sleeves.

From the Wall Street Journal:

During his weekend tour of Indiana, Sen. Obama shed his suit jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves. Rather than pace up and down the stage like a law professor addressing a lecture hall, the Illinois senator has taken to speaking more often from behind a podium.

"If you had watched the last few weeks of this campaign, you would think that all that politics is about is taking hits and bickering," he said. "There's no serious discussion about how we're actually going to bring back jobs to Anderson."

The candidates are turning their attention to the economy at an important time. Global food shortages are starting to have effects at home, and the San Francisco Chronicle today documented the ongoing economic shift that will force many Americans to accept a new standard of living due to the weak dollar.

At NDN, we agree that far more attention needs to be paid to the economic woes of everyday people. NDN President Simon Rosenberg recently blogged on the need to keep political attention on laying out an agenda that restores broad-based prosperity, which the Globalization Initiative has been advocating for the last three years.

With the economy on the wrong track, the candidates need to pick up their rhetoric and provide a cogent narrative on America’s place in the new globalized economy. While it may be easy to pander on these issues for short term political advantage, greater benefit, to both candidate and nation, will come from providing a convincing argument that deals with the realities of globalization. Hopefully, a renewed focus on everyday people will do just that.


Rob Shapiro: Candidates need to create economic narrative

In this short video, NDN Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert J. Shapiro expands on his quote from John Heilemann's recent piece in New York Magazine on Barack Obama's economic argument, entitled "Econobamanomic Theory."

From the article:

Robert Shapiro, another veteran of the 1992 Clinton economic team and author of a new book on globalization, agrees. "The narrative is: The U.S. is way ahead in the global economy, but we need to make basic changes so that everyone can prosper," Shapiro says. "We need to get control of health-care and energy costs, because without it, American workers will never see rising wages-since the burden on businesses is otherwise too great." As for training, Shapiro has proposed giving grants to all the community colleges in the country to keep their computer labs open on nights and weekends so that anyone can show up and learn (for free) the skills they need to compete in a tech-centric economy. "We can do it for $125 million a year, and even if it costs twice that much, it would be worth it."

In the video, Dr. Shapiro discusses the necessity for Presidential candidates to explain the vast global changes that are affecting the economy and to provide real plans to make globalization work for all Americans. He argues that John McCain has created an unrealistic economic narrative focused on tax cuts for corportations, but that Senators Clinton and Obama must create a truly compelling one.

Take a look:

As Heilemann notes in his article, Obama has already adopted the NDN proposal that Dr. Shapiro mentions: providing free computer training for all Americans through the community college system.

For more of Dr. Shapiro's far-reaching work on the economy and globalization, check out:
Syndicate content