The dark side of green policy


While it is very popular nowadays for everything to be green and environmentally sustainable, as it should be, the federal policies pursued for the sake of a so-called “green” standard can have negative consequences.

Niger Innis, the spokesman for the Congress on Racial Equality, delves into these questions this week in a three-part series, “Green Injustice,” in the Washington Examiner.

In the series (Part I, Part II and Part III), Innis describes how large corporations, environmental groups and the Obama administation hurt poor people and poor countries in their quest for “green” products and policies.

In Part I, he says that Obama is raising the price of energy through his pursuit of a cap-and-trade policy and increased emission controls, and also advocating for budget cuts to the national low-income home energy assistance program.

…(I)t is simply mind-boggling that Obama would push such a heartless one-two punch by advancing policies that raise energy costs while at the same time removing policies that help poor people meet energy needs. It’s as if they want the poor to freeze in the winter or suffer heat stroke in the summer.

In Part II, he takes a look at the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a wood certification standard that was started by environmental groups and is being pitched as a way to ensure wood products are green and sustainable. But the FSC standards vary widely by country, which makes it more difficult for developing countries to compete in the wood products marketplace. FSC also purports to be the best wood certification standard, when in fact the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is the most popular standard in the U.S.

What this means in practice is that poor countries in the developing world are penalized in the marketplace. Green groups don’t care about the fate of the people in these countries. And the greens’ business partners in Europe’s forestry and paper industries are laughing all the way to the bank.

The results are not pretty.

Simply put, FSC certification raises the costs of almost, well, everything. In addition to coffee cups and grocery bags, paper products are a basic material used widely by just about every industry you can imagine. Globalization as we know it isn’t possible without abundant paper goods made for packing and transporting.

…The greatest harm is to poor men and women in developing countries. Trade in global markets is their lifeline and their best chance for raising living standards to those we in wealthy countries enjoy. But unfair schemes like FSC make the rise from poverty that much harder.

In Part III, Innis turns his eye on large corporations and says their policy of “Corporate Social Responsibility” has them pursuing products and policies that are supposed to be sustainable and make the world better, but in practice unfairly cut developing countries out of the new global economy.

At the end of the day, (Corporate Social Responsibility) is an infinitely malleable term that, like fair trade, has been hijacked by politically motivated ideological and special interest groups to undermine commerce and entrepreneurship. In its current form, CSR offers no hope that it will improve the living standards or dignity of those most disadvantaged in society.