Friday, June 20, 2014

Warming Up to Corruption

Back in April, Washington State's Governor, Jay Inslee, initiated an effort to develop a cap-and-trade style 'solution' to global warming.  These efforts recently came to my attention and caused me to wonder what we can do politically to push back, slow, delay, resist, or even squash similar efforts related to saving the planet from Global Warming.

The answer?  I don't know... yet.  The draw of Global Warming (or Climate Change, or whatever it's called today...) seems irresistible to a certain segment of the population, a very large segment of the population here in the Pacific Northwest.  That provides a lot of political space for folks like Inslee to operate.

A quick summary of the project:

Gov. Inslee's office laid out the initiative on April 29th by issuing Executive Order 14-04.  The order create's "The Governor's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce."  The goal of the Taskforce is to "provide recommendations on the design and implementation of a carbon emission limits and market mechanisms program for Washington [State]."  The solution resulting from the Taskforce:

  • "...must establish a cap on carbon pollution emissions,"
  • must include "...binding requirements to meet our statutory emission limits,"
  • "...must include the market mechanisms needed to meet the limits in the most effective and efficient manner possible,"
  • "...must be designed to maximize the benefits and minimize the implementation costs, considering our emissions and energy sources, and our business and jobs."

In reviewing those objectives one senses the raw political power that Inslee is wielding here.  The goals are notably expansive, would likely impact quite a large portion of the population and businesses in our state, and may even be a bit contradictory.  A politician needs to be pretty confident that their position cannot be challenged before issuing a document with such boldly stated goals.

The executive order began with several statements of "fact" intended to validate the need for the document to follow. "Whearas" items counted up to nine, with more listed as sub-bullets.  The first was particularly stunning:

WHEREAS, the University of Washington, as required by statute, recently released its summary of existing knowledge regarding the causes, impacts, and effects of climate change on Washington State, concluding:
  • Human activities have increased atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases to levels unprecedented in at least the past 800,000 years; (...)
Wow.  A few words about the nonsense of Global Warming seem in order:

(A) The Error: Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW), the idea that humanity's daily activities are negatively impacting the environment, is professed to be scientifically proven fact.  In reality, though, it is merely a scientific consensus.  To be a scientific fact we would have to subject the theories of AGW to the scientific method.  The hypotheses would need to be testable through controlled experiments that generate consistent, predictable results.  In this case, we cannot re-create the environment of the Earth and all the myriad of inputs inside a laboratory.  We are left with mere hypotheses, unproven.  The hyptothesis does not magically convert to fact after crossing some imaginary level of consensus amongst scientists.

That does beg the question as to why scientists could be so caught up in the idea.  My take?  It's a bit of confusion resulting from the rejection of traditional western theology that is common in modern academic circles:

(B) The Theology: AGW is an expression of something very familiar to Christians: Original sin.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and we are all stained by the corruption of sin from birth.  AGW theory requires us to believe that simply by living a normal human existence we are damaging, perhaps destroying, the planet.  When we drive our car we emit carbon waste.  When we flip on a light switch we use electricity generated by a polluting coal plant.  Taken to an extreme, merely by breathing we exhale carbon.  AGW theory does not allow for any peace from this scourge of environmental sin, although True Believers would convince us all that we can earn our salvation by our good works: recycling programs, re-usable shopping bags, electric cars, state-wide carbon reduction regimes.

Then who are these people that are promoting such a flawed vision of reality?

(C) The Players: There are three types of people engaged in all of this AGW effort:

  1. True Believers: the people who feel redeemed by recycling that soda bottle instead of throwing it away, or by creating new regulations that force others to join them.  These are your rank and file soldiers (voters) for all of the pro-environment measures the Manipulators might propose; and
  2. The Followers: going along to get along, to be cool, to keep the pesky True Believers off their backs; and
  3. The Manipulators: the leaders that swoop in to take advantage of the guilty consciences of the True Believers and the weaknesses of the Followers.  By encouraging a concept of works-righteousness they strive to obtain wealth and power for themselves.
Odds are that Jay Inslee falls into this third bucket.  It is highly unlikely he is personally committed to Cap & Trade outside of his own political aggrandizement.

Returning to that sense of the Political Power being exerted by Gov. Inslee, as I read on through the executive order it became simply overwhelming.  With the swoosh of his pen on a document, our governor is seemingly moving heaven and earth and commanding all his citizens to march in step to his wishes.

And in that thought comes another clear indication of the foundational error of initiatives such as the governor's Taskforce to reduce carbon emissions:

(D) The Corruption: When most of us consider the idea of political corruption, we likely think of individual politicians lining their pockets or those of their friends.  That kind of run-of-the-mill graft is surely going to happen through the work of this task force.  A different sort of corruption leaps out of this document: corruption of purpose. 

Following is a list of each of the state and regional governing bodies tasked with additional responsibilities by Executive Order 14-04:
  1. Office of Financial Management
  2. Department of Commerce
  3. Department of Ecology
  4. Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
  5. Northwest Power and Conservation Council
  6. Department of Transportation
  7. Regional Transportation Planning Organizations
  8. Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board
  9. Transportation Improvement Board
  10. County Road Administration Board
  11. Washington State University
  12. WSU Energy Program
  13. State Building Code Council
  14. Department of Agriculture
  15. Northwest Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership for Washington
  16. Bonneville Power Administration
  17. Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
  18. US. Department of Energy
  19. Department of Enterprise Services
  20. Results Washington
  21. Sovereign Tribal Governments
  22. Pacific Coast Collaborative
  23. Department of Health
  24. Department of Fish and Wildlife
  25. Department of Natural Resources
  26. Office of the Attorney General
  27. Office of the Insurance Commissioner
A few of those departments exist to address issues related to energy and environment, such as the the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.  Organizations such as the Office of Financial Management would surely have a natural role in any new policy being proposed.  But most of the organization listed above...

...The Department of Transportation gained numerous mentions in the document.  It seems to be repeatedly assigned a leadership role and made responsible for marshalling the cooperation of other departments towards supporting key objectives.  This is a corruption of purpose.

WSDOT is on this planet for a specific purpose...
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is the steward of a large and robust transportation system, and is responsible for ensuring that people and goods move safely and efficiently. In addition to building, maintaining, and operating the state highway system, WSDOT is responsible for the state ferry system, and works in partnership with others to maintain and improve local roads, railroads, airports, and multi-modal alternatives to driving.
...and that purpose is something very unrelated to saving the planet from destruction via carbon pollution resulting from man's existence.

Organizations like WSDOT are created to facilitate efficient solutions to complex problems that are best solved through specialization.  This department allows the state to designate resources and round up talented personnel to provide for a specific need of the people of the state.  This executive order diverts transportation systems experts from their normal duties of ensuring traffic will flow smoothly on our highways (etc.) to making sure the planet doesn't sweat too much some fifty years in the future.  Money that would otherwise be budgeted to expand a bridge, open a new waterway, or ensure the smooth functioning of the airports is going to be redirected towards initiatives of questionable return.

An argument could be made that WSDOT isn't being taken off course.  The department already incorporates many factors into its projects that go beyond getting a road laid straight.  An example might be the overpasses recently constructed above WA-520 on the east side of Lake Washington that are virtual forests atop concrete.  An impressive amount of beautification.  Although planting those trees might be a sidebar to the function of moving traffic efficiently, that beautification generates immediate benefits.  Each of us that travels over or under that highway bridge enjoys the fruits of these WSDOT efforts to make something more than merely a bare pathway for vehicles.

There is an honesty and simplicity to creating the Dept. Of Transportation.  Here is a mechanism for the people to address an important common objective with clarity.  There is no mystery.  The head of the WSDOT and all the staff under him has one clear mission: ensure the efficient movement of people and things around the state.  The Governor can relax a bit knowing that the details of this challenging undertaking have been delegated to knowledgable experts, allowing him to turn to other pressing problems requiring his leadership.  The citizens of the sstate can rest easy in the knowledge that this work has been properly assigned and will be addressed by people properly accountable to the political process.

If the Dept of Transportation is going to be tasked to accomplish something other than meeting the transportation needs of the citizens of Washington State, then perhaps the department should be re-named something else entirely, allowing us to vote in the creation of a Dept of Only Transportation (seriously, and this time we mean it!) to replace the old corrupted entity and to manage our roads and byways.

Or perhaps we could recognize the corruption of purpose that is inherent in an effort like The Governor's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce and direct our government to use limited state tax funds more effectively.

Which brings us back to the pressing question: How do we shift the political reality away from the nonsense of Global Warming and towards the common sense of managing to the daily needs of our state?  Hopefully this dialogue can help us develop meaningful solutions to that problem.

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