With Election 2010 Behind Us, Where Do Progressives Turn?
With oil money behind much of the Tea Party’s success, GreenBusinessOwner.com argues that the only way to move society forward is to break our addiction to oil. The beauty is that politics are largely irrelevant, and we don’t have to wait for election night 2012 to participate once again.
Election 2010 is over, and the Tea Party-backed GOP picked up a handful of seats in the U.S. Senate in addition to retaking the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s a frustrating setback for progressives after feeling like the country had finally grasped the ineffectiveness of the GOP’s borrow-and-spend philosophies, no-bid contracts with Halliburton, and “Can’t do” attitude on energy efficiency, independence from foreign oil, and renewables. Here, I argue that turning our collective energy to the green economy may be our most powerful way of fighting back against corruption, deception, and deliberate manipulation from some well-heeled funders of the Tea Party madness.
Much like the overwhelming turnout that propelled the Democratic party to a sweeping victory in 2008, the 2010 tide that swept the GOP to a majority in the House of Representatives and several Senate seat victories (though not a majority) was fueled by anger. In 2008, it was anger over the loose regulatory environment that led to the collapse of the financial industry. In 2010, it was anger over….President Obama?
Many on the left didn’t grasp the power behind the Tea Party and its anger until it was too late. But where did the hatred and animosity actually come from?
- Was it health care reform? The fact that we can never again be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition? Or that we can’t simply be dropped after years of faithfully paying our premiums once we get sick? Death panels, where Tea Partiers really believed the official party line that Grandma would be murdered by President Obama?
- Was it deficits? Well, sure, deficits aren’t good, but they’re also nothing new. Ronald Reagan started the deficit fiesta in the 1980’s by cutting taxes and increasing military spending. His rival in the GOP primary in 1980, George H.W. Bush, called it voodoo economics, but Reagan was able to convince Americans they could have their cake and eat it, too. After all, it’s popular to cut taxes. It’s also popular to increase government spending. Unfortunately, as we’ve found since the 1980’s, any politician that tries to point out the obvious reality check here becomes wildly unpopular very quickly.
The real answer of where the anger came from is oil. And not from the Gulf spill, either.
You may never have heard of Koch Industries. Mostly an oil refining business, it’s the second largest privately held company in the U.S. In addition to oil, KI has brands including Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, and Stainmaster carpet (make a mental note of these, and promise me you’ll never buy them again). The two brothers who own Koch Industries are ranked among the wealthiest Americans, and of course, Obama
‘s suspension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans probably didn’t make them happy.
The Koch brothers have poured money into politics. It is widely believed that these two brothers were the primary funders behind the Tea Party and its angry mobs. The Koch brothers and two Texas oil companies were also behind the failed attempt to bring down California’s landmark clean energy and green jobs law (AB 32), by funding a dirty campaign (Proposition 23, California, 2010) that would have crippled the clean tech sector had it passed. Fortunately, California voters saw through the deception and Proposition 23 did not pass.
So let’s get back to the question at hand: where do we stand now? In 2008, a tremendous hope criss-crossed the nation that President Obama and a progressive congress would be able to create a clean energy campaign with legs. The possibility that Obama and a Democratic Senate can get any clean air, green jobs, or clean energy legislation past a Republican dominated House of Representatives is doubtful.
While what happens on the political stage in Washington is obviously a piece of the picture, it’s only that: a piece. The bottom line is that the green economy is coming, and perhaps the most effective way we can move the country (and the world) toward a clean, healthy future is to vote with our dollars.
WE MUST BREAK OUR ADDICTION TO OIL.
Consider the facts:
- For the past few years, reversing a century-long trend, the number of small, family owned farms in the U.S. actually increased
- Organic food sales continue to grow, despite a slumping economy (up 6% last year)
- Clean tech became the number 1 patent classification last year, surpassing IT and biotech
- The number of farmer’s markets in the United States continues its exponential growth: from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009
- California recently approved 4,143 new megawatts of solar thermal development
- You can lease a brand new, all electric Nissan Leaf for $200 per month
- The cost of wind energy continues to come down all the time, and coal, natural gas, and oil will only get more expensive
- Last year, green building was the only building sector that showed any signs of life. With energy efficiency a key priority of most companies (and thanks to Executive Orders by President Obama, also the Federal Government), expect LEED buildings to become the industry standard within a fairly short time horizon
- Big companies are pouring money into sustainability. GE’s ecomagination challenge and Philips Livable Cities Award highlight the new economy approach to creating a sustainable world and making money at the same time.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, none of these things will stop just because Republicans now have control of one half of the Legislative branch of the U.S. government.
My conclusion, my hope, and my ask of you is that you take some time to evaluate your purchases. Plastic comes from oil. Gasoline comes from oil. Can you cut your consumption of both? If you can, you take money away from Koch Industries. It’s really that simple.
The green economy is coming, and there is nothing any well-heeled anti-government political backers can do about it.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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