Climate Change Is Not Just an Environmental Problem -- It's an Economic One
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
The Delaware River Basin Commission ( DRBC), the agency in charge of the Delaware River as it winds through four states, conveniently sidestepped taking responsibility for overseeing the cumulative effects of the many natural gas pipelines being built around or through the Delaware River watershed by saying, essentially, "that's not our job." It's a tried-and-true political maneuver. But, if it's not the job of the DRBC, then we are really screwed here in the Delaware River Valley. That means it's not anybody's job to look after the aggregate environmental degradation in the watershed and threats to human (and animal) well-being caused by the standard procedures of the natural gas industry, operating as they do without need to comply with the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts. Oh well, I guess they can monitor themselves.
The DRBC did however give the go-ahead to two controversial projects: a $1.2 billion electrical transmission line through 72 miles of Delaware River watershed connecting New Jersey and Pennsylvania substations, and a $6.4 billion project to expand the Philadelphia airport- by filling in 130 acres of wetlands. Wetlands mitigate the effects of disastrous storms like Sandy, which we can expect more of, thanks to climate change. But you can't charge for prudence.
Every time I revisit the airport expansion, the numbers get bigger. There's the usual amount of cheerleading for this project, from the usual cheerleaders- the ones that brought you casinos and the expanded convention center. And I'm sure they all stand to make piles of money. Airport director Mark Gale promises jobs and revenue and a more efficient airport. Let's hope any of that is true. US Airways Vice President Micheal Minerva questioned the proposition back in 2010, so some pretty smart people see things differently. The project now only needs permission from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (an oxymoron under Corbett) and the US Army Corps of Engineers, so consider it a done deal.
And here, in microcosm, is the problem with solving climate change. There's too much money to to be made doing the same old same old. There's no incentive to change, I mean, unless you like breathing the air and drinking the water. But apparently that's just not as sexy as the old "jobs and revenue" line that gets trotted out by every fill-in-the-blank financially interested party to defend every project that will add more carbon to the atmosphere.
The sticking point with climate change is it's not an environmental problem, primarily, but an economic problem. The entire world's economy revolves around carbon-spewing technologies. And until the kingpins controlling the resources that keep this economy running figure out how to make money in changing, there will be no serious change. Period, the end. Too bad about the air and water.
The natural gas industry is big in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and is grossly unregulated. The prize the industry promotes is replacing oil with natural gas - liquified natural gas, to be precise. That way cars keep running, factories don't have to retool, there's no need to worry so much about rapid transit, and hey, natural gas is clean, they say, kind of like clean coal ( not). Tar sands development in Canada continues at a breakneck pace, although it may not go as smoothly as envisioned. GE recently announced plans to expand "natural gas highway" partnerships and the US government issued a report last week that makes the case for exporting natural gas, which the US now has in surplus. Sure it'll drive up domestic natural gas prices, but ultimately... jobs and revenue. So that's the plan, a natural gas superhighway and exporting the stuff so other countries can build natural gas superhighways. Good old, same old thing.