Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Is Where American Prestige Suffers

I've spoken, as have many in Blogtopia (© Skippy) about the squandered legacy of September 11, and how Bush spent both America's influence and his political capital pursuing policies that are beyond questionable, careering straight into shameful.

The fruits of said squandering are beginning to bud out:
GENEVA (Reuters) - Developing countries stand to suffer the worst effects of global warming, and should not have to pay for a problem created mainly by the rich, executives and experts said on Thursday.

At a gathering of 2,400 of the world's most powerful people at Davos, a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, leaders from emerging nations said they wanted the United States, European Union and others in the West to be more accountable for the heat-trapping emissions their cars and factories produce.

They also asserted their right to stoke their own economies, even if greenhouse gas levels rise as a result.

"The U.S., the Europeans, the OECD [ed. note: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries have for the last 30 to 40 years contributed to greenhouse gases much more than us," Rahul Bajaj, chairman of India's second-largest motorcycle maker, Bajaj Auto Ltd., said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
The World Economic Forum, where all this is taking place, is kind of like the All Star Game of global economics, right down to the skills competitions. A lot of glitzy, glamourous stuff gets said, but nothing comes out of it and the real 2007 season starts next week. There will be a lot of talk about high-minded ideals and issues (as you can see), but the grunt work is going to take place away from Davos.

Anyway, the first shots are being aimed directly at America and directly at President Bush. His tepid change in stance on global warming and carbon emissions is being challenged, something that is nearly unheard of in American history: an American president being unable to use his bully pulpit to squash debate over an issue like this, using economics as his cudgel.

Part of this is his own problem, and that's the lion's share of the trouble. By repudiating Kyoto outright early on in his administration, Bush opened the door to other repudiations, by developed and developing couintries. What incentive do India and China have to sign the Protocols (the excuse Bush used to decline to endorse it further, thus effectively killing the treaty) if the US will not sign it? A vicious circle, one that America should have taken the lead in breaking.

China will shortly have the world's third largest economy, surpassing France, in large part because it is developing energy resources without the hindrance of Kyoto. The world could have had its say in this had America chose to stand with the treaty, but that clearly is not going to happen anytime soon.

India, too, is positioning itself to enter the top five economies in the world, altho to their credit, they've been pushing nuclear power as well as fossil-fuels energy sources. Why? Unlike China, which has spent 20% of its GDP on infrastructure, India has only spent 6%, meaning transporting energy sources like oil and gas become more costly. Nuclear fuel lasts longer, is easier to carry (despite the precautions), and thus is more cost-effective for India than fossil fuels.

But carbon emissions will play a big role in Indian development too, since they will need to ramp up farming to feed all the people who will be living there, unless drastic population control measures are implemented.

And yet, America will claim that Kyoto was too costly for our economy to absorb.

That's patent nonsense, as any empirical look will tell you: the investment in renewable, carbon-reduced energy will create jobs, highly skilled, highly paid jobs, and may even add to our GDP each year as we develop technologies that can be exported to other nations.

There's that whole "influence" thing hovering in the rear view mirror again. Europe is far ahead of the US in technological advances in energy efficiency. Try buying An American water heater if you don't believe me.

If, after September 11, we had decided that we had enough of the Middle East and OPEC. We would have had an extra five years that we could have caught up with Europe. And I think politically that would have been the smart thing to do: rather than spend a half-trillion dollars pursuing a man who had nothing to do with September 11 and then trying to run his country for him, we had invested that in energy technologies, imagine where we might be? The country would be united behind a man with vision and the will (AND political capital!) to transform American history, returning us to the self-sufficient, can-do America of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries.

Geo-politically, too, it would have been the smart thing to do: by withdrawing our support for corrupt regimes in the Middle East and Africa, we could have gone from being the world's policeman to being the world's court. Intervention in a nation would have been much rarer, and we could have focused our attention where it truly needed to be, over tragedies like the Sudan and the coming Nigerian crisis, with little or no consideration as to our economic health.

Yea, it might have called for some sacrifice on the part of all of us, at least short term. Maybe raising our thermostats a little, or wearing a sweater, or $4 a gallon gas for a year or two, but look at what we would have missed: gas price fluctuations like a needle on a bad compass, three thousand American youth dead, $500 billion dollars wasted in South Asia, and a skyrocketing deficit caused by both Iraq and the overzealous tax cuts passed by Bush's Congresses, trying to stimulate an economy dragged down in large part by fuel price uncertainty.

As an added plus, we could have our prestige back, enough that we could honestly say to these whining nations at Davos, "We're doing all that we can, now it's your turn."

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