A few months ago I criticized President Obama’s choice of GE’s Jeffrey Immelt for the position of jobs and competition czar. I pointed out that under Immelt’s lead, GE’s value had plummeted and that the only competition it was winning was avoiding taxes and moving jobs overseas.
If anything, President Obama’s choice of John Bryson for Commerce Secretary is a harbinger of even worse disasters for the economy.
Mr. Bryson may be many things but a friend of capitalism and free markets – especially for energy – isn’t one of them. He was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council one of the most aggressive environmental lobbying groups fighting through lobbying, lawsuits (Bryson was a lawyer for them), and grass roots organizing against almost every technology that modern industrial civilization was built upon and which Americans’ relatively high standard of living still depends upon. They have fought to shut down power plants – and to prevent new ones from being built – they have helped to foist numerous environmental regulations and costly conservation requirements on factories, power plants, and consumers – raising the price of energy and consumer goods and causing unemployment in the process. And much of their efforts have been funded by taxpayers since when they win suits against the government or industry, they are awarded lawyers’ fees and compensation. In the last 40 years almost no government agency has done more to retard economic progress than the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it has had no greater friend (directly and indirectly) in these efforts than the NRDC.
Of course since his time with the NRDC Mr. Bryson has gone on to work in the both the public and private sectors – hurting the economy every step of the way. When he served on the California Public Utilities Commission, under his influence, it separated utility profits from power use in an effort to force conservation upon utilities and ratepayers. Later, when he joined the utility Edison International as CEO and chairman he worked with the California Public Utilities Commission to define the terms of the state’s catastrophic electric restructuring. California’s restructuring led to blackouts, energy shortages, near bankruptcies – and ultimately did little or nothing to reduce consumer prices or increase competition. No other state followed California’s restructuring example, but the results of their flawed plan brought other states’ restructuring efforts largely to a halt. So because, with Bryson’s help, California got restructuring badly wrong, consumers across the nation have been denied the potential benefits of a more well-thought out deregulation – something more akin to Texas. A colleague at the NCPA has described the benefits of restructured markets. In short, Bryson both in the public and private energy sector in California has overseen or helped shape a situation in which, while power use is down, prices are among the highest in the nation and even with a declining economy and companies and jobs fleeing the state, California lives just one hot day away from blackouts – planned and unplanned.
In addition, Edison, under Bryson’s leadership, has been front and center in pushing the potentially catastrophic cap and tax energy plan that the Obama administration would like to foist upon the nation.
Bryson is also on the board of a number of other companies. He is Chairman of Brightsource International a solar energy company and a director of Miles Electric Vehicles, Inc, and serves as a member of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. What do these companies/associations and the technologies they promote have in common – they are all considered “green,” and they all rely heavily on government support and/or mandates for their existence and continued growth and use. No taxpayer dollars and no heavy hand of government in the form of mandates and selective licensing, no solar power or electric vehicles.
It’s not surprising that Bryson, with his background as a leading environmental lobbyist would support these companies, what is surprising is that with his support of these companies he would even be considered to represent the U.S. economy and trade to the world. Rather than a proponent of free markets and consumer choice – what the position of Commerce Secretary deserves – he is like one of the bad guys in an Ayn Rand novel: a welfare industrialist who supports industries and companies that people won’t freely choose to support and thus can’t compete and so uses the force of government to gain power and advantage.
One is left wondering, does President Obama really understand so little about the conditions that foster economic growth and the virtues of a market economy or is he just so bound to radical environmentalists that he puts their goal of zero economic growth ahead of the needs and desires of average Americans for jobs and a better life.
On another note, it’s not just the federal government’s actions that hurt the economy and the general public with their regulatory decisions. A recent NCPA report by Wendell Cox shows that the housing bubble – the bursting of which was largely responsible for the recession which the country still seems to be mired in to some degree – was due in no small part to growth control regulations that cities and counties enacted. In short, “smart growth,” proved to be dumb. The cities at the forefront of the smart growth movement, those that enacted the most stringent regulations telling property owners what they could build and couldn’t, forcing high density in the cities and preventing farmland from being developed for housing for growing populations, those cities are responsible for the lion’s share of the losses in the recent housing collapse. Cox details the how’s and the whys that, absent strict smart growth regulations, the country would likely have avoided or at least substantially softened, the housing price collapse which led to the record mortgage defaults, the bank and investment house bankruptcies, the bailouts and so many of the other problems that have resulted in the worst economic decline in America since the late 70’s for sure, and perhaps since the Great depression.
Green policies and those who continue to promote them, including the Obama administration, have so much to answer for!