Sunday, May 31, 2009

Using State Agencies & Non-Profit Organizations to Drive Environmental Initiatives

Using State Agencies and Commissions to drive governmental mandated obligations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emission seems not to be exactly a first choice for the State of Washington, considering the tight budgetary constraints that are out there. The State’s Department of Ecology and Energy can design and implement strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the environment. It is also possible for the Washington State Department of Transportation to work hand in hand with the Federal Department of Transportation to explore pathways for reducing oil consumption and adopting other alternative fuel as ethanol, synthetic diesel fuel and hydrogen, to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions levels. What may however undermine the state’s agencies and commissions’ efforts in effecting reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, is not only the budget constraint, but the institutional factors that constraints state and federal agencies in achieving efficiency in executing tasks and providing practical solutions to many problems.

To overcome these constraints to government agencies efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, non-profit organizations offer a wealth of avenues and practical experience addressing institutional constraint synoptic of government agencies. How can Non-Profit organizations address institutional factors that can prevent government agencies and commissions meet their mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Non-profit organizations can launch and maintain word of mouth momentum across the communities in the state regarding the education of citizens on their personal contribution to greenhouse gas emission levels. They can be the eye and ear of government agencies seeking to track total emissions of households who live in diverse communities, including the various communities’ contribution to home heating emissions, appliance emissions, water emissions and waste emissions. Non-profit organization can help move measures that create financial incentives for adopting the greening of neighborhoods and communities with trees that create canopy and absorb carbon dioxide from the environment. Non-Profit organizations are well situated to conduct and release research results of human activities that release greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and methane). By investing, monitoring and researching into new technologies that tracts the concentration of greenhouse gases in the environment, Non-profit organization are able to provide practical cost-effective solutions that reverses average statewide temperature and associated issues in more details than a state agency. What the Non-profit organizations offer are the private sector 'can-do-attitude' to resolving the challenging problems of energy efficiency, clean air, water and environmental pollution monitoring that can save government agencies a ton of money and time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Using our K-12 curriculum to drive global climatic and environmental stability

Progress toward global climatic stability requires reforms in public policy, classroom instruction and human endeavor. It requires management of environmental and industrial activities, holding down carbon emission levels in both the industrial and chemical complexes, making people accountable for their carbon footprint, helping people experience change in life activities that support growth of clean energy and teaching all these knowledge to our young ones. Achieving climatic stability requires solutions for greenhouse gas emissions and adoption of regional and national climatic initiative to help achieve substantial change in the current environmental status. To advance public support to help achieve collective habits in automobile driving, coal driven energy generation and other forms of pollution may require teaching, classroom teaching for all, especially the new generation of Americans who will take the mantle of leadership in the coming century.

To attain high-quality environment, critical aspects of human pollution activities must now be taught, new initiatives in developing and administering responsive program(s) affected through regulations and laws about the environment and pollution, and a system of instruction to accomplish an understanding of this urgent problem, provided. Teaching children positive habits for maintaining clean air and water can create the foundation for achieving environmental stability. Providing environmental conservation education for all children in our K-12 system would now be critical to America’s environmental future. Education has always been the foundation for achieving human behavioral modification, providing environmental education opportunity to millions of American children in the K-12 curriculum could help build a foundation for a much more stable climate and environment. Our nation’s economic competitiveness will depend on our ability to control the pace of environmental pollution by human and animal activities. Teaching our children about best practices in environmental management may turn out to be the best decision by our political leaders, schools and teachers in making America much more economically competitive in the coming decade. Introducing new K-12 curriculum with environmental education components and attracting best minds to impart environmental knowledge to the next generation of Americans will ensure success in our ability to achieve climatic stability in Washington State and America.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Healthy imagination on the politics of greenhouse gas reduction in Washington State.

I am in the mood for a healthy imagination on the politics of greenhouse gas reduction, not the exact imagination contained in our governor's executive order which directs Washington State agencies to: 1) continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program; 2) work with the Obama Administration to help design a national program that is strong, and reflects state priorities; 3) develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met; 4) work with TransAlta to reduce emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plant near Centralia by more than half; 4) ensure Washington has trees to capture harmful carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry; 5) work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector; 6) join with other West Coast states and the private sector to develop and implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles; 7) address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies; and 8) Increase transit options, such as buses, light rail, and ride-share programs, and give Washington residents more choices for reducing the effect of transportation emissions. When exactly did we become the United States of America and four Canadian Provinces? The first mandate for the State agencies crosses the border and exactly impinges on Canada’s right to be a sovereign nation. Much as we may share some mutual intentions on greenhouse reduction, we cannot make or require a region of another country to work with us on issues that serves our state’s priority.

Can we make agencies in some provinces in Canada to maintain emission standard or uphold standards that may be at variance with other provinces in Canada? Can we make four provinces in Canada to buy strictly wine produced in the six western states in America or Washington State? The answer is probably No, except of course the remaining provinces in Canada are willing to defer their sovereignty on the issue of greenhouse gas reduction or wine drinking. If you ask an average Canadian on the first proposal of the governor’s executive order, they will probably say: “Hell No! We as Canadians can make our laws and abide by them; we do not need another state in America to dictate policy for us, even though it works towards our mutual interests”. The reality of world or regional politics is that, you cannot make citizens of other countries to bear the burden of a decision issued within our National boundaries not to mention the State of Washington.

What we should actually strive to do, is to work within our borders, set a uniform standard with other six western States in America, and under an advisory submit some recommendations to the four provinces in Canada, and hopefully if they still share the mutual understanding on the issue of greenhouse reduction, they will adopt our recommendations subject to deliberation from Ottawa, Canada. The reality of international politics is: we cannot make policies across sovereign borders. It has never worked and it would not work, pronto! I’m I sinister about this proposal? Just look at the United Nations, just look at North and South Korea; just fantasize that possibility between Israeli’s and Palestinians on the issue of Gaza strip. The bottom line of World’s politics is that, even though you share same region and probably same problems with your neighbors to the north, you cannot make them follow through on policy initiatives developed within your state or national boundaries.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Climatic Change Day for Washington State: Driving environmental policy with Executive Orders?

Washington State Governor has chosen to resuscitate the ideas behind some environmental bills that died in both houses of legislature through executive orders. By signing the executive order on May 21, 2009, the governor has lifted the bar of negotiation on regional energy program and initiatives to a higher level. Although the governor may have meant well in furthering the course of climate change and managing greenhouse gas emissions, the use of executive order is tantamount to scuttling the will of the people, which had been reposed in their legislators. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for environmental initiatives that manages environmental pollution, create clean energy jobs, reduce global climate change and break American’s dependence on foreign oil, however, using an executive order to achieve this cause is un-democratic and that is what makes me cringe. Washingtonians respect and support the collective will of our representative legislators, even if it is at variance with our immediate want. This is the snag in representative democratic voting.

For one, imagine the remaining five other governors in the Western State Climate Change Initiative group issuing similar executive orders to drive the initiative in their various states. Would that not be construed as a regional hammock, where clicks of governors chose to drive failed legislative bills or their personal preference(s) through executive orders? Second, can you contemplate Governor Schwanneger effecting through executive order recent initiative denying marital status to men and women with alternative lifestyle in the State of California? Would that not have resulted in pandemonium? Here was the case where a preposition was passed by the Californian electorate, affirmed by the State’s Supreme Court, and with a fiat of executive order the governor maneuvers the will of the public. I am not saying this actually happened it is just a hypothetical example to show the impact of using executive orders by a Governor or President. In this hypothetical example, the only difference between what our State Governor did and what the Governor of the State of California would have done was to usurp the will of the people by abridging their voting power as reposed in their legislators. While the governor of California would have directly abridged the will of the people as represented by their voting on proposition 8 and their affirmation by the California Supreme court, the executive order of the governor of the State of Washington indirectly achieves the same result. This type of administrative action could create a democratic debacle or crisis? This is why I do not subscribe to our governor using executive order(s) to drive any initiative.

With all my due respect for our governor and her office, the use of executive order to drive the Washington State Climatic Change initiative does not augur well for the initiative and the leadership role that the State governor is attempting to attain among the 30 state governors who signed the gas, energy and climate change initiative that was forwarded to the United States Congress this past week. Our governor must take a higher ground, work through consensus and develop confidence in initiatives that are progressive, for her to attain that leadership role among her peers.

I strongly believe that our cause is just and our case for managing green house emissions levels, controlling our carbon footprint, protecting Washington State freshwater supplies and establishing clean energy strategy that creates green jobs, is as good for probity as it can get. I also strongly believe that our opponents do not have more superior alternative proposal to deal with the issue of clean energy,climate change and environmental pollution as we have put forward. We however have to be cautious in the way we drive public policy initiatives or bills, call it what you may, before they become laws.

We can win this war of ideas and debate on clean energy, climate change and environmental pollution, even if it takes some time; even if it takes us drumming the beat of the outrageous impact of global climatic change on the lives, health and public safety of Washingtonians; even if it takes us once again through the arduous legislative process just as any well meaning legislative bill should. We can do this holding high our heads and standing tall. However, achieving our noble course through an undemocratic process is not a better option for us today, tomorrow or ever. Even, if we have to extend the target date for meeting our goals for climate change and managing greenhouse emission standard beyond the targeted date of 2020. Did I hear Excuse me? I beg your pardon, I was just joking about the latter statement.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Looking for Solutions to Global Warming

There is the assumption that global warming is a problem created by environmentalist and that data collected on atmospheric climatic conditions do not give any credence to the problem of global warming. This assumption would have been plausible except for the fact that: many of our large cities are experiencing prolong erratic weather conditions, excessive heat wave in the summer months, more than mild winters, rising sea level that makes coastal cities vulnerable to the problem of flooding, unstable seas and river levels which have caused frequent floods in areas once considered floodless or with low incidence of flood and global warming pollution.

Politicians, academics and researchers understand the need to get started in tackling a problem as huge as global warming however, because there is not yet a consensus as to the gravity or definition of the problem, everyone continues to drag their feet. Solutions to climate change are within us, only if we can get everyone to talk to each other, and find amicable solutions to a problem that will not go away. Burning more fossil fuel will not only make us demand more imported foreign oil it will also increase incidences of environmental pollution. Instituting and supporting a national fuel standard as proposed by the Obama Administration, would not only create better transmissions and engines, stronger and lighter cars which are cost effective on fuel economy, but also help reduce carbon emission that has been a problem for global warming. Better gas mileage from automobile would not only reduce global warming, it will also help Americans save millions of dollars at the pump over the life of most vehicles. Supporting coal burning power plants which continue to dump pollutants and heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere will only deter investment in clean renewable energy, and thus, reduction in Carbon dioxide emissions. Avoiding dangerous climatic change will require efforts by all coal, petrochemical, industrial and similar electricity generation complexes to adopt new practices that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. To avoid environmental and economic consequences of generating energy by biomass or biodegradable organic matter we must fashion out bio-energy policies that take into consideration the gravity of the problem of environmental pollution.

Opponents and supporters of the global warming thesis, argue that there is need for more research and that unless further researches are carried out on the thesis of global warming, we may be unable to provide answers to questions of the interactions of clouds, water vapor and sea ice on climatic systems; and, their consequences on heat-trapping gas emissions. Because we now understand that higher carbon emission levels and changed precipitation patterns exert interactive efforts on natural wetlands, we are now able to assess the problem of global warming and its impact on our ecosystem.

The underlying truth to this entire hullabaloo is the fact that the atmosphere cannot wait and the earth’s residents cannot be satisfied by a prolonged debate that is getting us no where and just compounding a problem that is not oblivious to anybody, researchers, politicians and academics alike.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stemming Global Warming: the great modern debate

The concern over global warming has created opposing camps of debates regarding what is best to do for American Economy and people. The economist and climatologist have opposing view on one hand with respect to how best to curb carbon dioxide emission and hence global warming; on the other hand, chemists and environmentalist are having their opposing position on what the data is saying regarding global warming.

According to some economists, if the objective in resource use is to achieve economic efficiency, a carbon tax is probably the best solution to stemming global warming. It is essential to make industries and people take into account their behavior to pollute or not pollute, by evaluating the financial consequences of their behavior. The extent to which a carbon tax is able to impact behavior however, depends on the elasticity of demand and supply of a pollutant. If the demand elasticity to pollute reaches zero, a factor that is improbable, it may be possible to control carbon pollution, hence, global warming. Climatologist, in the caliber of William Vaughn and Diane Douglas, maintain that the cause of global warming is due to the sun’s effect on the earth as it moves about its orbit and not from carbon dioxide pollution. Thus, the argument to control global warming through policy instrument to control carbon dioxide emission from people’s or industries’ activities is not scientifically justifiable.

Atmospheric Chemist Steven Japar and Chemist Mark Campbell pointed out that the earth’s temperature is not as venerably hot as many critics would want us to believe. Japar who has done extensive research in the areas of air pollution, atmospheric chemistry and vehicle emissions, indicated that climatic model prediction shows a non-existent hot zone in the atmosphere. Campbell supported Japar argument by indicating that the sky is not burning and any claim by global warming proponents to this fact, ignores data that indicate otherwise. In fact, the truth of the matter is that oceanic temperatures are actually falling and sea ice recovery has been at a faster rate than anticipated. There is no observational evidence that increases in greenhouse gas emissions have caused extensive fluctuation in atmospheric temperature. Environmentalists maintain that the position that the earth’s temperature is not warmer, that carbon emission pollution is not driving global warming or that, there is more evidence to support solar cycle as the main driver of global warming is a fluke. Environmentalists further maintain that factories and human activities are loading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide waste and that unless we put in place corrective actions to reverse the trend, the earth and its inhabitants stand to loose from the repercussions of indecision or shortsightedness regarding global warming.

While the debates rage on, I will like to err on the side of economists who have proposed caps and tax program to control emission levels of any gas, carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases that impact the health status and/or the environment. Unless however, we can guarantee an elasticity of demand of zero for the culprit of global warming, it may be impossible to attain the utopia of a perfect environmental stability. While the Caps and Tax program may not be a panacea solution to all the problems of global warming, it is a worthy alternative or tentative option, to be able to preempt possible repercussion of erratic atmospheric temperature and probably global warming.

Monday, May 25, 2009





Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are the watershed programs and ecosystem-level plans sufficient to clean the Puget Sound Basin?

People are waiting to see the nature of watershed programs and ecosystem level plans that could help us clean the Puget Sound Basin. A Washington State inaugural watchdog council set as its agenda the provision of a blue print on watershed programs and ecosystem-level plans that would speed up the processes to the year 2020. Some of their initiatives had been incorporated into several other environmental, energy and green house bills that had been funneled through both houses of legislature in the current open session in Washington State. Pollution clean up in the marine waters of the Hood Canal, Whidbey island, Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, South Puget Sound and, North and South Central Puget Sound, had formed the basis of many of the council deliberations. The council had been both visionary and circumspect as regards how law makers treat their ideas and had made effort to present some recommendations that is flexible for adoption into bills on the floor of both houses. How effectively the councils's recommendations had been integrated into some bills and to what extent they had impacted budget line item of government departments effecting the programs and plans are still up in the air.

Some of the programs and plans recommended deserve more scrutiny considering the fact that they are now part of State laws, while others are waiting to be passed and some will not see the light of the day. The question is: why were some recommendations able to make it to be law of the state, others petitioned and others tagged along to some other bills in queue. Many Washingtonians who are tired of the pollution in the basin, want to find out what exactly are these programs and plans going to accomplish. One famous proposal was the development of watershed and ecosystem-level plans that could help in the following: clean-up of contaminated aquatic lands and shoreline; management of all Puget Sound estuaries and habitat; and, recovery for salmon, orca and other specie in the Federal endangered specie list. Can these laws, bills or recommendations actually accomplish all these tasks, or are they just a wish list?

A good barometer of the prevailing relevance of some of the recommendations on the watershed programs and protection plan for marine environment is the portion of the state budget recommended to effect the programs and plans. We all understand that we are working under tight budget situation. We also understand that without money many of the great ideas may not get off the ground. We however believe that money set aside for some of the recommendations must be judicially spent under the guidelines of the office of management and budgets if we are to see some laudable change in the basin. Programs and plan managers must justify their actions in saving the estuaries and marine waters by applying themselves to result-oriented and useful investments in cleaning up the Puget sound. If they don't and the public don't encourage them to do so, the effort of the council and the opportunity which they have offered in recommendations and in support of some state laws, or future laws of the state, would have been in vain.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Investing in productive environmental legislation and the fear factor

In the Senate legislative debate on reducing green house gas emission, there were presumptions that companies will never consider moving into Washington State because of the potential of the bill restriction on greenhouse gas emission levels. Opponents did not envisage that other factors draw companies into a location, and that regulatory factors could actually be a plus, not a minus. The caps and tax program which allows companies to trade and sell credits for ability to pollute beyond the maximum allowable level could be positioned at a level that is considered a better opportunity cost than what obtains in other states. This therefore may actually help many companies move in and those already here, remain.

The current impact of a caps and tax program to limit greenhouse gas emission in some Northeastern states and in some European countries of the size of Washington State, have not driven many of the polluting firms away from their location. The fear tactic in the argument of the opponents of the greenhouse gas emission bill is not therefore tenable. The major problems related to the financial meltdown and the ongoing sleepy consumer demand may actually drive companies away rather than regulatory factors. When consumer confidence and opportunity for credits continue to decline for companies, they are more likely to close shop or refuse to expand rather than a regulatory factor as the caps and tax program. Many of us who support the bill are expecting that if it ever becomes a Washington State Law, it will not only control pollution but, bring alternative jobs and production processes that do not pollute or destroy the ozone layer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Freeing us from that heavy Carbon-diet: energy generation without pollution

Opponents of the Clean Energy and Security Act have a lot on their mind today. Turning down Federal stimulus money designed to help reduce carbon emission level seems to be a ploy by some of them, to halt the engine of progress across the country. Their position is unenviable, considering the fact that they have to explain themselves out on what to do with millions of tons of pollutants pumped into the atmosphere everyday from the coal and petroleum industrial complexes in their various states.

The Legislation affectionately called the Waxman-Markey bill, making its way through the Federal House Energy and Commerce Committee, is obviously a nightmare for many opponents of the Clean Energy and Security Act. Many Coal producing States and heavy carbon emitting industrial complexes would love not to have this bill pass as it sets a new standard for them to comply with and creates a situation of accountability for the level of carbon emission in their various domains. What is probably obvious is that carbon-emitting industrial complexes around the nation have a lot to lose when the bill becomes law. Coal mining companies, power plants and utilities who have long depended on coal for generating electricity, would now have to contend with the possibility of losing money when the bill passes and is signed into law.

Who are the potential winners when Waxman-Markey Bill passes? Investors in clean energy technologies, companies using wind mills in generating electricity or energy, researchers, academics, environmentalists and politicians who have constantly drummed up the beat of lowering carbon emission standards. The groups of regional green gas initiative in the Northwest and Midwest are also potential winners not to mention many small-scale wind mills in Washington State who have been making effort to win our citizens off the carbon-diet for energy generation. Commercial-scale wind energy investors would reap from having the foresight to produce energy from less polluting alternatives.

The reality long known for three decades is that chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), a residue of carbon emission from coal and carbonated industrial processes, is gradually eating away on the ozone layer. Energy generation from coal has contributed to high levels of chlorofluorocarbon in the atmosphere, which have in turn diminished our ozone layer and contributed to the problem of global warming. What the Clean Energy and Security Act offer, is an opportunity to reduce chlorofluorocarbon in the atmosphere, create new technologies in energy generation and green jobs. The new law is expected to facilitate renewable energy systems, including energy generated from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydrogen. It is also expected to usher in a regime of energy efficiency improvements thereby lowering the cost of generating a kilowatt of energy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making a good argument for Global Warming: What the marketers already know!

Although the US Environmental Protection Agency have taken the lead to open up debates on global warming at two big cities across the country, the challenge of selling this idea to skeptics is still an uphill battle. Across the country, many city councils have voted in support of policy changes to recognize the possible impact of global warming on the atmospheric conditions in their cities, and some of them have been able to convince their state legislatures to find answers to this problem at the State level. The bodies of research evidence at many Universities and private research institutes across the world have provided us with volume of knowledge showing that global warming is not only affecting the world’s weather condition and activities on all continents, but also the health of humans and animals. Skeptics however still maintain that the idea of global warming having impact on human activities and health is a fluke. They challenge protagonists of the idea of global warming, to provide concrete evidence that is not doubtful as to the direct impact of global warming on their own lives. Here comes the challenge, how do you market an idea to a group that remains skeptical of known facts buttressed by scientific knowledge and observation.

Many academics, just like marketers, often know that it is very difficult to sell a new idea, a new research finding, a new product, or a very controversial observation to varied audiences. And with this comes what the advertizing executives have completely pinned down: You need to market your idea or product with the fervor of total commitment and unwavering consistency. That is the only way to win a war of ideas. Anything less, is often short of success. Ask Procter and Gamble, search Microsoft, talk to, beat it out of Boeing, all these companies will tell you, you have to market your ideas, no matter how good your ideas are, if not well marketed, you will be disappointed and your stakeholders will remain unsatisfied. Instead of debates, town-hall type of smooching about global warming, the US Environmental Protection Agency must be getting the marketing of global warming impact on climate, human and animal life on a road show and media blitz and advertisements all over the nation. Yes, doing it in the first two cities is a good idea, but a better one, is to get the professionals to do the marketing with concrete knowledge and scientific findings packaged to address the concerns of the skeptics. We can do it, if we convinced the former Soviet Union with their oligarchy and tight fisted iron-strong men to break down their dilapidated political structure of communism, we sure can convince our friends and neighbors, to see what is rather obvious: Our weather is gone erratic and we need to know why!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

US Environmental Protection Agency Global Warming Conference in Seattle: the journey toward a zero carbon-emission economy.

As human activities increases in a carbon-based economy, there is a general likelihood of higher emission levels of carbon waste. Chemical and Petroleum plants have been known to emit higher levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases while processing their products. Being a carbon-dependent economy, it has been difficult to fight off many of the carbon waste emitting firms through regulations and enforcement of standards, because of the wealth and political influence of these firms. Today, the greenhouse effect of the higher emission levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other cell damaging gases have been well documented. Scientific studies have shown that when human and wildlife are exposed to high levels of carbon-based gases, there are the possibilities of damages to their physiology. Epidemiologic and comparative clinical studies conducted on impact of poisonous gas by many research labs, including the carbon-based gases, have provided clear evidence of detrimental health effect of excessive exposure. What we should do about these problems and how we must go about resolving them are probably two of the reasons why the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is having a conference in Seattle, Washington on tackling global warming pollution.

Additionally, what the EPA is doing in Seattle today, is exploring public opinion regarding the experiences of people, industries and community leaders regarding the effect of the greenhouse gases and global warming. I applaud the US Environmental Protection Agency for this initiative and foresight. I also want to bring to their attention the importance of working with many of the stakeholders, professionals, scientists, politicians and industrial executives, who have first hand knowledge of how the wastes are produced and what is the better strategy to follow in bringing about effective compliance with the zero-carbon emission strategy. The EPA’s drive to find solution to global warming issues and the relative impact of the global warming on human and plant lives will do all of us a lot of good if we work together as a community and nation with a purpose.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green house gas standard, what a way to go!

With economic conditions in the nation unclear, the choice of a green house standard for automobile building is probably the boldest step taken by the Obama Administration. The Federal government is demonstrating that it can command respect from probably two unlikely friends: the environmentalist and automobile manufactures. Even with probably a declining industry, the automobile builders are supporting a new direction for their industry and American economy. Desired changes in how cars and trucks are built henceforth is coming from within the automobile industry, the State and Federal Governments. We now appreciate the effort of the State of California in striving to institute a higher standard for carbon emission reduction in trucks and cars built to run on their roads. Like in other progressive issues, the State of California, while not the most favorite state in the Union in terms of budget management, has made remarkable effort to lead the way in cutting down on carbon emission in their State.

When a survey was taken about four or five years ago in Washington State regarding regional mass transit, the automobile industry fired up a campaign to kill the initiative. Many supporters of the mass transit initiative were nearly cowed into submission. The automobile industry was more concerned about sale of cars and trucks than the issues of associated air pollution. In their usual fashion, the Automobile industry fought hard, invested heavily in financial lobbying to help set back progressive initiatives similar to what has now become a national standard for the nation : A National Policy to help increase gas mileage of all cars and trucks driven in the United States and cut down on green house gas emissions.

Today, for the first time, we now have folks and groups, who have once fought heavy battles to preserve their turfs and in some cases dragged each other to the courts for gigantic legal battles, submit to common sense in our nation’s effort to build a public policy that will help us build better and more efficient cars, reduce green house gas emission level, solve our pressing energy consumption problem and keep the public engaged in a green energy economy. Further, we are finding that we can work together to support a national standard that benefits our environment, provide a clear certainty that automobile builders can thrive when they build more fuel efficient car, invest to reduce gas emission level, and end our dependency on oil and carbon-based economy. With this policy in place, it will be possible not only for environmental and automobile engineers to work together in building better cars and future, but also politicians from both aisles of American Politics to support a greener economy, thriving green jobs and clean energy economy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Philosophizing About the Environment

The traditional approach to evaluating the impact of air pollution is taking a new dimension especially with the issue of environmental pollution and the notion that pollution from excessive consumption of natural resources is necessarily bad for the air we breath, water we drink and the environment we live in. If we are to insist on the notion that pollution is bad for the environment, we must infer consequentially that to pollute, is to be anti the environment; and hence, the total equilibrium of man to nature. There is however a school of thought, based on scientific findings and intellectual research: that man can co-exist in equilibrium with nature, if only he is more conscious of how he uses resources relative to other plant and animal specie. Co-existence is a term used here to recognize that man is not the only specie inhabiting this earth; and to a greater extent, man of all specie has the opportunity and ability to reflect on his action. Man has the privilege of instituting corrective action, that may lead to equilibrium between man and nature. For us to live in relative equilibrium with other specie of the world, it is essential that we become careful of how we use our natural resources. We must accept that our uncautionable use of some natures' endowment is driving the planet into a corner. Even if we doubt it very much, there are clearer indicators that the world is not as green as before and that man is the greatest culprit in the pollution of the environment. We must now strive to restrict excessive exploitation of resources, an issue that is leading to environmental pollution and destabilizing the harmonious existence of all organism. For man to exist in equilibrium with other organism of the earth, man must now take the initiative to control his uses and consumption of natural resources. We must now promote stability in resource use in all of our endeavors.

The second insight to environmental stability, is the recognition that many well developed aspects of our enterprises or economy, has created extensively huge wealth. This allows us to integrate capital with physical assets on one hand, and scientific knowledge and technological innovation on the other, to bring about solution to the current disequilibrium in the environment. We can create enforcible standards that proffer solution to climate change and the air and water pollution problems. We can invest in enterprises that will create wealth from stabilizing the environment and create green jobs. The determination of risks associated with environmental pollution, while may not be totally eliminated, can be accounted for in the way we manage resource use. This will in turn yield that desired results that we are seeking: equilibrium in resource use and the stability of the environment. If only we can sum up the courage to do the right thing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Staying Engaged with Capitalism and the Green Economy.

We come to the readers of this blog today with a sense of commitment to Capitalism and a Green Economy. In these times when it seems everyone you know is suffering from some form of financial handicap or job loss, we want to stay engaged with the American Public who love and cherish this land. We want to share our commitment and dedication to a Green Economy for America, despite the fact that our most cherished and proudest of all industry, the automobile industry, is facing its greatest challenge at anytime in the history of this American Enterprise. Our commitment in this realm of duty to some is heresy, because they cannot envisage profit making from automobile building enterprises without pollution or damage to the environment. Our purpose is to reassure these people that we are as committed to the notion of: In God we trust, all and everyone, must pay in Dollars! We have reflected on many of our business and human practices, even with the declining automobile industry, and we are not ashamed to say: Yes, we can! We can make profit and still keep our rivers, air and water clean. We can revolutionize the way our businesses produce products and services to that extent that we practically decrease carbon emission to zero. Yes, this is our land and your land, the land of the Stars and Stripes.

Our plan is to set new higher standards for the whole American Economy. We want to inject more environmentally conscious business leaders to the corporate rooms across the nation. We want to bring the concept of holistic and reflective learning to enterprise management. We want to run enterprises that consider pollution of our environment too costly a venture. Yes, with the automobile industry too. America economy today needs business leaders who are averse to support any instrumentation or technological adoption that increases emission of damaging and destructive gases to the environment. We want to use ethical thoughts and a sense of epistemological consciousness to shape the way America’s Automobile Industry and Americans move forward in a global economy. We value fresh ideas about how we interact with our environment, a sense of renewal that comes from reflection about how we have done business in the last 200 years. We are not socialist, but chronic capitalist with a vengeance for protecting the beautiful America that the good Lord has given his chosen people. Yes, chosen people. We are Americans, the greatest generation of all times, living and protecting our land and waters with our blood and sweat from sea to shining sea!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Environmental Risk Assessment in the Age of Storm water run-off Pollution

The variable health condition of some of the rivers and surface waters in Washington State has brought us to discussion of risk assessments in managing environmental resources like surface water, rivers and ocean. Many of the havocs done to our ground water in the Puget Sound region, especially in Elliot Bay, has made scientist skirmish and launch effort at evaluating the impact of environmental stressors, including chemical pollutants, industrial run-offs, invasive grass species and climate change on the quality of fresh water in the Puget Sound basin. Just like scientists, residents are asking pointed questions like: 1) to what extent are chemical pollutants poising the fishes and wild life in our rivers; 2) to what extent are agricultural fertilizers and insecticides polluting our ground water; and 3) what is the risk involved in the introduction of non-indigenous wildlife species to Washington Rivers? These questions to a greater extent are measurable; especially when the issue of esthetic value of the bodies of water is paramount in the mind of residents. Using risk assessment theories to measure the extent of environmental pollution seems to be a useful tool, especially when our interest is to ensure that our ground and surface water is safe.

Recently, some scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency have been attempting to understand the potential effect of noticeable stressors to the Puget Sound and using risk management theory to control excessive damage and protect the health of the rivers and ocean in the State. A key part of the mission of the EPA’s scientists is to understand the potential effect of stressors such as those described above in assessing the quality and health of ground and surface water. What does risk assessment offers at this time: 1) the possibility of predicting the likelihood of the effects of the stressors on ground and surface water; 2) the potential of collecting information that could allow scientist hedge against risks of surface and ground water pollution; 3) opportunity to develop a monitoring plan that can reduce pollutants levels in surface and ground waters; and 4) opportunity to develop exposure profile for each pollutants. With these it will be possible to develop a quality index that can help support surface and ground water clean up. It may also be possible to limit many industrial and agricultural activities related to the environmental stressor that are damaging the ground and surface waters.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Washington Aquatic Nuisance Management Plan: How far have we come since 2001?

Working my tail off with a group of community and neighborhood clean-up crews last month exposed me to some very interesting observations: 1) that with the warmer weather our neighborhood river has a lot of exotic weed already spreading faster than we can say jack rabbit; 2) that the Aquatic Nuisance Management Plan instituted by the Washington Department of Fishery and Wildlife in 2001 will need some re-evaluation; and 3) that a much aggressive effort to detect, monitor, control and probably eradicate aquatic nuisance species in our neighborhood rivers, is long overdue. With the growing acceptance of the fact that climatic change may actually cause rapid changes in coastal and estuarine ecosystem, it is now possible to appreciate the fact that warmer water temperatures and increased storm water runoffs can help aquatic nuisance species grow beyond coastal ecosystem, including many of our smaller rivers. The reality of many ecological observations in the Puget Sound Region is that warm weather increases growth and expansion of exotic aquatic species, including the cordgrass (Spartina)and water hyacinth found in our neighborhood Rivers. Ecologists and Plant Pathologists inform me that other exotic grasses are very tolerant to a wide range of water salinity and could eventually become a threat to many estuaries and tidal waves in the Puget Sound as salt water intrudes into freshwater and sea level rises from snow melts from warmer weather.

The 2001 Washington Aquatic Nuisance Management Plan was a good step, but the environment that existed in the Puget Sound Region is not what we have today. The drastic changes that we have all witnessed are calling for bolder steps in correcting the abnormalities in the environment. The Aquatic Nuisance Management Plan had as part of its goal, the prevention of the re-introduction of exotic grasses and species into our regional water bodies, detection and monitoring of on-going control of the aquatic nuisance species already in our rivers, educating people about the prevention and spreading of these species, and the introduction of regulations that promote prevention and control of the aquatic nuisance species. While we have made some gains in some areas of this plan, progress in other parts of the plan is at best, lack luster. Unless we now institute periodic evaluations of the progress made on this plan, we may end up winning the battle but, essentially loosing the war to the fast spreading species of some aquatic nuisance. Unless we develop a mechanism to ensure that our plans are constantly re-evaluated to maintain progress on our goals, we may find it difficult to attain our objectives on time.

The following are the categories of re-evaluation or assessment questions suitable to measure progress made on our plan as recommended by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency: 1) How does the plan address potential impacts of climate change; 2) How does the plan demonstrate the capacity to adapt to changing conditions; (3) How does the plan provide monitoring strategies necessary for success; 4) To what extent does the plan give room for periodic revisions and updates; and 5) To what extent does the plan describe funding sources and strategies for its implementation. Only when we are able to provide answers to these questions can we be able to identify threats from the aquatic nuisance species and appropriately assess the environmental risk associated with their spread.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Moving toward a better pollutant discharge limitation: Revisiting that Exemption in HB 2053.

HB2053 wants to exempt certain cities in Washington State from pollutant discharge limitation into the municipal storm drainage system because of the unique nature of the soil and topography of the cities. According to its proponents, certain Washington cities should not be required to be covered under the national pollutant discharge elimination program, with respect to the storm sewer systems permit program. The dark side of this argument is that legislatures proposing the argument, often wants to add exemption to solution of a problem that potentially can protect these cities from unintended consequence of pollutant discharge into the environment. Every city has either a topography or soil problem that can circumstantially allow them to be exempted from this national standard. Unless a city is sitting on a perfectly flat terrain, where the composition of the soil and topography is perfect, the pollutant discharge limitation paradigm will always apply. Even at that, no one area in this country could effectively argue that it must be given a prerogative to opt out of a very useful and meaningful standard of maintaining lower levels of pollution emission to the environment.

There is at least a common denominator for all the cities in Washington State as well as the nation as a whole, a lot of people reside in them who would rather not suffer from pollutant discharges’ effects that will eventually hamper their health and destroy their environment. When exemption as this is allowed, it becomes rather difficult to police those cities that are under conformance. A good percentage of the conforming cities may seek exemption under other criteria that may not be considered at this time and would eventually justify their exemption through a lobby effort to include themselves among cities that are being exempted from conforming to the national pollutant discharge limitation. No city is a villain here and there are a lot of good reasons why a city would want to be exempted from the pollutant discharge limitation. I will want to challenge the proponents of HB 2053 and similar bills that may be in the pipe line, to take a fresh look at the problem of pollutant emission and the consequences of storm water runoff pollution problem that the state is contending with in the Puget Sound area of the State. We cannot afford to have the magnitude of this problem in other cities of the state because of a granted exemption under this bill. If we change a few assumptions about the soil and topography of many potentially excludable cities, we could make a dramatic progress in our effort to protect and preserve our environment.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Second Look at ES2SSB 5854

Given tightened budgets, government building managers are already taking another look at cost-effective ways of complying with the provisions of Public law ES2SSB. To make the most of the law, property managers are reviewing architectural, engineering, security and technical stability of most buildings under their care. They are seeking cooperation and team work to help meet the provisions of the law. This is hardly a surprise, considering the magnitude of effort required to meet the provisions of the law.

ES2SSB 5854 goes into law in January 2010, seeking to reduce climate pollution in built environment. As provided, qualifying utilities shall upload the energy consumption data from owners of building or property managers to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s energy star portfolio manager. The choice of method used to report energy use data must maximize efficiency and minimize overall program cost. Utilities who have the obligation to report the energy use data to the US Environmental Protection has the option of working on a complementary reporting system that suits the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency. The whole process depends on cooperative efforts between utility companies, the US EPA, property owners and/or managers of public and private buildings. The complementary effort of all groups to work together to make this law work may be traced to the initial effort made by the Efficiency and Green Buildings (EEGB) Implementation Work Group who sought cooperation and made recommendations to the Climate Action Team of business, academic, tribal, state and local government, labor, religious, and environmental leaders, who sought to help the state meet its mandatory requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To be successful, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the design, construction and operations of buildings are meeting superior energy performance, including the use of a combination of heat, water and power systems in the monitored buildings for energy efficiency. There must be a way for property managers to work with the utility companies in meeting the EPA benchmarks for energy efficiency use in public buildings, many of which are sprawled through the urbanized centers of Washington State (Seattle, Spokane, Bellevue, Redmond, Kent, Federal Way, Richland, Pullman and a few other places around the State). Further, each group participating in this process must perceive itself as a watch dog for the greater good of the total effort to bring down energy use and carbon dioxide reduction.

The cooperation to report benchmarking data and rating of energy-use efficiency are expected to be phased in for nonpublic and nonresidential buildings of greater than fifty thousand square feet in January 2011 and those greater than ten thousand square feet in January 2012. Based on the experience of property managers of public building in the first twelve month of energy-use efficiency data reporting to the EPA, it is very feasible that the learning curve of the process would be less steep and experience learned from public building managers will serve both owners and property managers of building of the sizes coming up in the subsequent 24 months of the introduction of the law, very well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Solar Energy Expansion through Sales Tax and Use Exemption Incentives: the way forward?

The passing of the renewable energy, sales tax and use exemption bill of 2009, ESSB 6170, is a thrill for many of us who were worried about the progress of solar energy development in Washington State. The bill creates a cost-recovery incentive for private individual and business investors in solar energy development and expansion. In addition, it offers communities investing in electricity generation from solar technology some impetus to grow from the year 2015 to 2020. This is hardly a small accomplishment considering that the current legislature which turned down much well meaning legislation with respect to clean energy generation and clean water, approved sales tax incentives for individuals investing in solar energy generation.

One of the benefits of this bill is the possibility for an expanded innovation in the solar energy industry. From now on till the expiration of the sales tax and use exemption bill, solar powered generation by community level utility enterprises will be compensated by reduced sales tax. Further, individuals who invest in energy generation from solar power will reap sizable monetary benefits from such endeavor. With the new bill it will be possible for innovators to harness solar power to generate clean energy at reduced cost to producers and consumers alike. It will hence be possible to achieve higher kilowatts electricity generation from solar power at defrayed cost and make it possible for investors to see Washington State as a trail blazer in bringing about clean energy generation. It will also help reduce our long dependence on foreign oil, a practice that had nearly enslaved our democracy to countries who neither like us nor care about out values.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ensuring success in Washington State Legislative Process: The dilemma of Environmental issues.

Why did E2SSB 5735 die in Senate on the last day of the session? I was thinking about this question after my earlier blog this morning. What I concluded (after 5 seconds and no coffee) was that regardless of my position on the climate bill, we need to build a better mousetrap in terms of determining the position of our legislatures or ensuring that a bill of interest passes. We could just look at the trend of the legislatures past voting on similar bills of the nature in consideration. If the legislature have been pro a similar issue, may be they would support the bill, if not, maybe not. The problem is we cannot be completely certain if this estimation would be true. Other things we could do as concerned citizens, is to heck, send as many emails, telephone calls/messages, snail mails, or what have you until something is done to ensure the success of your concern on the legislative floors.

Our tendency is to become dejected when critical issues of concern in form of a bill are sidetracked as they make their way through the legislative process. When Senators or House members focus their attention on killing a bill, they often fail to understand the merit of the bill. When lawmakers fail to appreciate the merits of a bill, they work themselves up to perfectly understand the demerits of the bill or minor issues surrounding it and then, they go to work: we either defeat the bill or we use session procedural maneuvers to administratively kill the bill. The will of the people is often compromised with this method. Many a politician will never agree that a method or system as this exists, but often they are used by both men and women from both parties representing you and me. When a bill is working its way through the House or Senate, we must all stay engaged, or else we lose the steam that drives it to success. This is an art lobbyist have mastered and its one that the internet and public access TV is offering many voters who are kin on participatory democracy. The failure of many bills is often because interested parties have failed to remain engaged. Being at a certain level of preparedness to stay engaged as the bill goes through the legislative process is one of the tools of democracy that was rearly used before the advent of the internet and the quizzical effort of voters to find out what is happening to deliberations of bills on CSPAN or TVW.

Voters cannot continue to believe that their representatives are aligned with their concerns in the deliberation of most bills on both house floors. Staying engaged is one way that ensures that issues of concern are driven to deliberation and voting in the Houses of Representative and Senate. Being at a proactive level of engagement through all the stages of legislation implies that as voters and concerned citizens of an issue, we are actively being represented. If a bill is never brought to the floor of the house or senate for voting, that indicates the failure of the voter or citizen to stay completely engaged with issue of their interest; and, with the people who could make it happen – their representatives. If voting on a bill fails to take place while moving through the legislative process, it is difficult to conclude whether a particular legislature is in favor or against the bill. From this perspective, we must spend time pushing our concerns through our legislatures as well as the legislative process. We must spend less time remunerating over what might have been, but more on examining the stability of the legislative deliberations and deliberators. This is just the reality.

Why did E2SSB 5735 Die in the Washington Senate?

You wonder why bills fail on the last day of the house’s or senate’s session. This is one area that many interested folks on bills ponder over when it comes to ensuring that our legislatures bid our calls. The failure of the Climate bill (E2SSB) on the last day of the Washington State Senate Session, a bill designed to help reduce pollution from the state’s one coal plant and expand transportation, continues to be nagging for many people. As you can imagine, both sides of the aisle probably did their best to advance their positions regarding the bill. However, when elected officers use their office to maneuver the system, you cannot but wonder. Did Noble men and women in Washington State Senate circumvent the system to ensure that their position is never known, or to kill the spirits of a lot of hopefuls? Your guess is as good as mine.

As you can imagine, the death of the Climate bill in the Senate inspired spirited conversations at many dinner tables. As my daughter puts it succinctly, maybe we did not challenge the senators enough to ‘force’ them to tell us why they did not put the E2SSB to vote. My position though is that many an issue begs solution. However, when we deliberately ignore an issue as big as environmental pollution for any reason or sake, we have actually done an injustice to the problem. No one likes to be ignored, especially when it comes to carbon dioxide or monoxide poisoning!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Unleashing Waves of Innovation: Transforming Washington Rivers & Estuaries for the Future

Arguments abound on saving Washington Rivers. There are those who believe that the greatest pollution threat to our rivers stems from urban sprawl and overdevelopments, arguing that as new houses are put in place and commercial development proceeds, millions of gallons of contaminant storm water are emptied into the rivers and bays, polluting sources of drinking water for many Washingtonians. One recently in a documentary on Frontline, describes Seattle’s Elliot Bay as a brown, noxious soup of nastiness that is unbelievable. That is hardly a complement to residents adjacent to the Bay.

Washington Legislatures may have offered an avenue to unleash possible waves of innovation in the cleaning up of Washington Rivers though, through the advancement of Senate Bill (SB) 5334. You wonder what does this bill has for cleaning Washington Rivers and Estuaries. The simple answer is that for the first time, we see the concept of borrowing (investment in environmental protection priority through credit) by state and municipal government in addressing environmental and natural resources protection, including river cleanup, water conservation, storm water and sewage treatment, and restoration of natural habit. The pillaring argument for this proposal comes from the understanding that environmental protection problems transcend municipal and state boundaries and if we are going to achieve rapid results, there must be a quantifiable measure of result associated with weighted costs. Raising loans, bonds and capital to transform the environment falls into this category of effort. My environmental protection colleagues termed this idea the ‘greening of Washington State using market forces not the dole’.

In SB 5334, legislatures find that the task to clean the environment, including rivers that run across municipal boundaries, must be a shared jurisdictional responsibility where all members in the region do not perceive the task as a burden, thereby delaying the undertaking or offering suboptimal financial expenditures and/or natural resource capital to resolve the problem. The previous challenge faced by municipalities has been the perception that there is an inequitable financial responsibility born by governments across which a river runs, and because of this there is a disincentive to participate in the process of say, cleaning up of the river. The perceived disparity of burdens and benefits to be shared by municipalities regarding the Puget Sound cleanup therefore, may have actually hampered the resolution of the problem and the availability of natural resources capital to effectively do the job.

As presented by Senator Jacobsen, Senate Bill 5334 introduces the concept of interjurisdictional financing, public financing, to address the lack of connection between financing burden and expenditure benefits to municipalities regarding the resolution or correction of an environmental pollution problem. This hopefully will help bypass current institutional barriers to financing integrated environmental clean up projects like the cleaning up of the Duwamish River, the Puget Sound and/or other polluted Washington Rivers? Unlike the traditional municipal bond finance model in which the repayment of bonds is anticipated solely from increased utility or tax revenues of the bond issuer, interjurisdictional bonds would be repaid by allocated shared responsibility, without diminution of the issuing entity's obligations to bondholders. The jurisdictional benefit from such expenditure, including increased revenue to municipalities based on project cost or tax saving or increased utility revenue is considerably tempered. The process however takes into consideration the life cycle of the project based on assessment protocols associated with the project. It is anticipated that this new method of financing will help garnish support for many environmentally responsive initiative or project(s).

It will also afford for greater innovation in project management initiative with respect to cleaning up of Washington State Rivers and Estuaries for years to come. And there lies the hope for transforming our rivers and estuaries, ideas driven by science, policy fashioned out from dynamic financial applications, resolution considered in light of prior experience and recommendations provided to actualize public desires.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cleaning up Washington Rivers and Estuaries in the Coming Decade

Investing in storm water runoff clean up is already steering some uneasiness among petroleum and oil producing firms, if not revolt. Socially responsive critics who are very concerned about the environment, are looking not only on moving bills through the Washington State House and Senate to help change the current state of unending pollution by some of these industries, but others that may also be contributing to industrial waste dislodge to Washington State Rivers.
The options contained in the clean water act do not seem palatable to the petroleum and oil executives. Frankly, as one of the executives puts it, this is just another additional cost of doing business that will be passed on to consumers/taxpayers. Did I hear another sales tax? You never can tell. However, I hope leaders of these industries, who are looking at the option of defraying the liability for paying into the clean-up fund to the consumers, appreciate the fact that, many if not all Washington Tax payers, are already suffering from use and sales tax fatigue! Here is a summary of impending sales tax and use bill before the Governor of the State for signature: 2SSB 5433. When signed into law, a county or legislative district can impose sales and use tax to fund among other things, mental health treatment and public safety. The only exception under this bill, is that money raised in it dispensation can not supplement operating expenditure for the calendar year in which a ballot measure is passed. Sad also is the fact that a levy lid lift on the imposed taxes can last for consecutive six years. Talk about a back breaker?

With this issue in mind, one can readily see why taxpayers were not forthcoming in supporting assumption of liability with respect to the cleaning-up of storm-water runoff pollution in Washington Rivers.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Of Stern, the Green Bonds and the politics of climatic Change in Washington State.

I listen to the discussion of climate change by Nicholas Stern the other night, thought deeply about how disagreeable we economists are on issues of discounting future stream of benefits of a particular investment and came to the conclusion that, we can only work within our expectation of the future, no one can actually know how investment in curbing climatic change will precisely turn out.

Likewise, I read part of the transcripts of HB 2334 and the claim that a $3 billion investment in capital improvement projects would lead us to increased health, safety and energy efficiency in public facilities. As convincing as this argument seem, the reality of Nicholas Stern discounting of future returns to investment of this nature, makes the justification of substantial future returns of what I would now call Green Bonds, questionable. I love us to be able to correct climate change. I strongly support initiatives that help correct environmental pollution or climate change, but I shy away from any investment, where the calculation of the future streams of return, to say the least, is questionable. If the grounds of assessment of the potential returns provided for by HB 2334, is based on future discounted rate propounded by calculations of Nicholas Stern or similar ones, I would strongly argue that we refrain from going in that direction, because the jury is not out on the actual discounted returns on investments of this nature. Further, if the estimate of future returns on initial investments into projects that may save energy is propounded by the expectations from performance-based contracting, I would say, and what planet are those guys from? The reality is you cannot enforce completely performance-based contracting, when there could be extraneous factors as earthquakes, natural disasters and other associated factors that may lead to cost over-run on projects. We must not forget the Big Dig in Boston! Performance-based contracting are as good as the events and the occasion surrounding the project, and since none of us can completely predict nature or people, we must be cautious as we use this type of tool in predicting potential returns to investments in capital improvement projects.

Finally, while I am not an accountant, I do understand a thing or two about budgeting, and if I can hear the Democratic State Treasurer correctly, a bond package of the three billion dollars magnitude for the sake of HB 2334, is necessarily not a wise idea when we have a Nine Billion dollars hole already in our budget. A word is sufficient for the wise, even while we contemplate the problem of climate change.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An interesting perspective on the forthcoming Green Industry?

A few years ago, I published an article in the International Journal of Environment Studies on environmental pollution and the oil industry neglect. The burning issue on my mind at the time was why were oil companies drilling in the coastal areas not being held responsible for increasing pollution from off-shore oil drilling activities. The aim of the article was to unsettle the position of the oil companies that they were not totally responsible for the deplorable state of the aquatic and coastal areas where they drilled oil. Many in the oil drilling business were aware that there were over 300 oil spills in a day in the US and Canada at the time. I sought to bring the oil companies to an unfamiliar way of thinking in the industry: the need to be a responsible corporate citizen and neighbor.

Many surveys completed by economists, petroleum engineers, scientists, and environmental protection agencies indicated that majority of the pollution experienced in downstream oil drilling were from the activities of oil exploration. The oil companies’ corporate executives were living in denials and often attempted to hoodwink residents of the coastal cities where their activities were high, by providing false press releases about accidents at their drilling sites. They provided glitzy brochures that portrayed their companies as places to make a living for local residents and establishments that provide first rate response to local disasters; not withstanding that some of such disasters and a few near misses, were as a result of their poor safety standards and oil exploration activities.

Reports from Federal Environmental Protection Agency and other oversight state agencies indicated that many of the oil companies drilling off-shore were not taking safety issues seriously; and, the question of having in place a disaster response system to reach and contain oil spill rapidly was not of high priority. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska became an environmental disaster, oil executives and corporate leaders in the oil industry started looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, it is about time that we change the way we do business. Individual companies began reviewing their own safety records, inspecting their ocean going ships and barges, asking more questions about how to operate or ship their products without doing more damage to the aquatic environment. Today, there are many oil companies with oil containment strategies which work toward reaching and trapping oil spills. There are even new players in the oil industry, companies whose profit making paradigm is based solely on providing first rate response service in oil containment and deploying systems designed to recover oil from spill without absorbing water. The problems created from Exxon Valdez oil spills indirectly created a new ‘green industry’, companies helping clean up pollution in the oceans and coastal areas and making profit in the process of doing so.

There comes my conviction that innovative individuals and companies can and will make extensive money in the anticipated green industry that the present governments of Gregoire and Obama are advancing. We only need to give them our support out of conviction of better results, given the proven results of similar companies that have developed out of an environmental disaster experience. It is with this conviction that I visualize a new industry capable of making profit from cleaning up the Duwamish River and the Puget Sound. A new industry of innovators ready to clean up the Puget Sound ground water run-offs and Washington State Rivers, while at the same time making profit out of the experience!