Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jerry Brown: the Archimedes of green energy?

Tom Hayden "gets" what Jerry Brown is about when it comes to green energy. In Jerry Brown, Archimedes and the search for an energy tipping point Peace and Justice Resource Center 03/08/2013, he writes:

Gov. Jerry Brown, an early pioneer of solar energy and conservation, once again might become a global leader in the battle against extreme climate change. Fresh from an impressive election triumph last November, and freed at last from a Republican legislative veto, Brown ventured forth to a national governor’s meeting this month and will travel to China in April.

It is possible that Brown might become a modern Archimedes, searching to create the leverage necessary to reach the tipping point in global energy policy ...

Environmentalists, human rights advocates and progressives in search of strategic direction might consider California (or New York, or any communities of concentrated environmental strength) as battlefields vast enough in combination to generate leverage towards a tipping point. Justice Louis Brandeis aptly described states as the "laboratories of reform." Deeper in history is the story of Archimedes, the Greek scientist-philosopher, who lived two centuries BC. Archimedes might have been labeled the "Dr. Moonbeam" of his era. He invented levers and solar heat rays, among other breakthroughs, before being killed by the Roman Empire in one of its Punic Wars. Archimedes is quoted as saying, "Give me a place to stand, and I will rule the world," which remains good advice in politics and strategy two thousand years later. One might say that the Brown Green Plan for California is an Archimedean leverage point in the energy wars ahead.
The future Archimedes of green energy?

Hayden has hopes for Jerry's scheduled April trip to China, which is a key player in the global warming issue:

Global energy politics, from Europe to Latin America, will have a major influence on US policies, too, but none so much as China. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry need to "cut a deal" with China, says former US senator Tim Wirth, for example by reducing methane leaks and phasing out HFCs, which trap more heat than carbon dioxide. (Rolling Stone, January 31, 2013) According to Wirth, "Kerry understands that the best way to unlock the stalemate in Washington is through Beijing," because "that kills the whole argument that cutting carbon in the US would give China an economic advantage."

Brown could be an ideal partner with China on energy efficiency and anti-pollution strategies. Brown is not burdened with the Cold War-like tensions rising between the US and China, but can focus instead on mutually beneficial energy and environmental initiatives, which later might evolve to become US national policy.
Hayden recalls Jerry's historic environmental initiatives of his first governorship, in which Hayden himself played a formal role. And:

California has launched a green energy revolution once before, also under Brown. I was Brown’s solar energy representative in the Seventies, a time when renewables were considered the quaint interest of organic communards living in the redwoods, which they were. But back to the land became forward to the future. Brown in those days opposed the utility plans for some 65 nuclear plants along the California coast, and he personally killed a liquefied-natural-gas terminal on native lands at Point Conception. He was slandered as "Governor Moonbeam" in the national media, and threatened by business and labor with a future of unemployment, lights-out energy shortages, and political defeat.

It was a bum rap. By promoting strict energy standards in transportation fuels, land use planning, architecture and many other fields, the first Brown administration fostered 1.5 million clean energy jobs, saved California consumers $65 billion, and secured California as the center for two-thirds of clean energy venture capital in the US. Jimmy Carter then adopted Brown’s policies and vision, even installing solar collectors on the White House roof. In April 1978, Carter's Council on Environmental Quality concluded it was “now possible to speak realistically of the United States becoming a solar society.”

Then came the Reagan counter-offensive and the Bush energy wars, but those disasters could only frustrate and delay the inevitable. [my emphasis]
Hayden also emphasizes the need to focus on "environmental justice":

Because of California’s emerging communities of color – just 39 percent of Californians are white – the battle against climate disaster will increasingly engage blacks, Latinos, Asians and poor people as well as traditional (white) environmentalists, or be lost in the political lust over privilege and power. The question of “environmental justice” will become central to the future, not simply a box to be checked off on organizational charts or a special earmark for environmental funding.

The issues of justice, pollution, health, and community empowerment are being welded together as California evolves. The process may involve a somewhat wrenching transition in priorities for environmental advocates who have enjoyed great success in recent California politics. For example, a 2010 ballot initiative for state parks funding (Prop. 21) fell short because the traditional environmental sponsors chose to hike automobile license fees by $18. The margin of voter support for Prop. 21 in communities of color fell short of the level needed. The physical separation of state park facilities from communities of color is a stark one.
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