In the space of less than one week, two major strange-bedfellow climate coalitions began to fray. This is good news for jobs and sound policy. Over the past decade, environmental groups began to realize that since most of the policies they supported could be easily demonstrated to be bad for the economy and job. In order to camouflage that fact, they began to seek strategic alliances with corporations and workers groups. Basically, some companies agreed to support select “green” policies – it just so happened that the policies would disadvantage their competition by favoring technologies (through subsidies or tax breaks) that the “green” companies were developing or placing restrictions on the technologies used by their competitors. Unions were also brought on with the promises of new “green” jobs and that green jobs would favor unionized workers.
This was always an alliance of convenience and in the past few years it has begun to unravel. First corporate funders began to withdraw from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). When cap and trade seemed inevitable, an number of companies thought it in their interest to work with environmentalists to shape U.S. climate restrictions in the hope that they could bend it to their favor (or at least make it less bad than it otherwise would be). For their part, environmentalists praised and publicized the companies in USCAP arguing that they were being forward thinking, good corporate citizens. The environment lobby also argued that the fact that these companies joined USCAP showed that energy restrictions were not anti-business but rather good for the economy.
Now, Ford Motor Company has joined a growing list of companies to drop out of USCAP. Ford’s decision followed on the heels of similar moves by Caterpillar, John Deere, ConocoPhillips, BP and GM. Few of these corporations ever thought that greenhouse gas restrictions would truly be good for their industry (though some had strategically positioned themselves for their corporations to personally benefit – at least they hoped). And since climate policy seems to be going nowhere for the forseeable future, they have apparently decided to flee the sinking ship.
Unions are apparently coming to this conclusion as well. Workers had long recognized that environmental regulations were, along with technological change, among the biggest sources of job losses. Thus, until recently they had been immune to the siren song of environmentalism. However, during the economic downturn, some labor groups joined with “Big Green” to lobby for “green jobs.” What has become apparent, however, is that the green jobs rarely materialize and when they do, they are either temporary or low paying. Worse the jobs they replace, or displace, are high paying, long term jobs. This conflict came to a head last Friday when the Laborers’ International Union of North America quit the BlueGreen Alliance in a dispute with the Alliance’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
LIUNA represents half a million workers and argued that the pipeline would add tens of thousands of well-paying, green jobs to the economy. LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said “That divide is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women.”