Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cutting Carbon Emissions

First, a rant: most members of Congress are either lawyers or businesspeople. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. It means reading and understanding each and every bill that they vote upon.

Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead . . .
  • They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote.

  • Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will cost.

  • Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, often in secrecy.

  • They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose.
Once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?”

America was founded on the slogan: “No taxation without representation.” It's not as catchy but perhaps we need another slogan: “No legislation without representation.”

Now, for cutting carbon emissions: the legislative process - to debate a strategic issue and negotiate a legal solution - involves fact gathering and discussion. The process includes sifting through biased and often selfish information sources and involves the art of persuasion, creative thinking, and manipulation as well as strength of character, due diligence and altruism.

Cutting carbon emissions - a world-wide issue of momentous magnitude - is a perfect example of how things are supposed to work.

There are thousands of industry groups. The automotive industry is one case in point. The industry has almost one hundred groups representing the various types of labor, parts suppliers, steel makers, the car manufactures, the truckers, shippers and other transportation industries, the sellers and dealerships, the engineers, the computer people, etc. And they each have a different point of view regarding what to do about reducing carbon emissions and how so doing will effect their group.

Each industry group attempts to present their point of view to the congressional committee members that might have influence on the development of a legislative proposal to address the problem. They also lobby staffers and reporters as well. Most such groups hire paid lobbyists to target and approach key legislators and staff members. Many of these paid lobbyists are ex- (or present) political consultants or ex-members or staff of the very Congress they are lobbying. Their very familiarity with the players gives them a bit more access than anyone else.

How does each group make it's point of view known, heard and favorably received? In caustic terms, one might say that cash opens the door and long-term economic promises keep them open for comments and rebuttals. Even if cash were taken out of the equation, it's still in everyone's interest to gather and hear information from every source before negotiating a solution.

Here's where integrity enters the picture. In recent years many committees and committee members have actually let industry groups draft the legislation that is then proposed by the committee.

Where did the due diligence go? The fiduciary responsibility?

Although extremely partisan members of congress might say that no money changed hands, how much does one favor his "friends" versus doing what's right for his country and constituents?

Only a new slate of players - elected officials with ethics, responsibility, and a passion for change - can sift through the partisanship, one sidedness and unfairness to craft a solution to cutting carbon emissions.