There is much popular talk about the coming new Green Economy; about how America will rebuild itself to new and undreamed-of prosperity by building an economy based on alternative, carbon-free or low-carbon energies. We have already seen how problematic some alternative energy sources are, but that’s only half of the problem. The other half is the fact that all these green energy companies are going to issue stock, borrow money and commit themselves to endless growth because they will function in the same economic paradigm that governs everything else.
They’re screwed before they even get out of the gate, especially for the brief interval where oil will stay below $100. In the Peak Oil movement we have called this “The Bumpy Plateau” for more than a decade. Any attempt at economic recovery will result in an immediate oil price spike in the face of depletion, which will kill the recovery and take another, deeper bite out of what was left when the recovery started.
It would be unwise to instantly forget what happened with the dot-com and housing bubbles. Both were illusions and well-orchestrated wealth transfers from the middle and lower classes to the wealthiest people in the country. The housing bubble was created and fanned white-hot by intentionally deregulating the mortgage industry, fraud and a host of crimes which sucked people into buying homes they could not afford and could never hope to pay for. A ton of money was created and it went to the people who ran the schemes: the largest banks, mortgage lenders and political campaign donors.
When that bubble collapsed, the taxpayers were asked to bail out first Bear Stearns and then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at total costs that will top $1 trillion dollars before counting the October 2008 bailout of $800 billion and all those that followed under many deliberately confusing names into the first quarter of 2009. As I write, the total “value” of various U.S. government bailouts has topped $10 trillion.
This doesn’t count the U.S. banks that have failed and are going to fail before banks are inevitably nationalized. Those are the same banks where green energy companies will be forced to look for financing. Personally, I think that the sooner the big banks fail, the sooner people can get to devising local currencies, which is what they’ll need to survive anyway. It is imperative to start that process while bridges are still standing and fresh water still runs. We need to start the transition to local currencies while there is still electricity and while fiber-optic cables are maintained and relatively new; while airlines fly and cell phones operate.
None of the above takes into account all the cash that homebuyers put into down payments initially. That money was lost too. That’s the same thing as the money that gullible investors poured into the dot-com bubble. The ones at the bottom of the pyramid are always us, and it is always our money that disappears first. The current monetary paradigm offers no other option. The above does not address the equity (energy) that was lost in each collapse. These are real costs.
In the market crash of 2002 and 2003 (which I accurately predicted, saying it was only a precursor to today’s events) hundreds of billions of dollars of shareholder equity were destroyed by the fraud of major corporations. Those dollars represented a lot more energy than what circulates today. The Federal Reserve has doubled its capitalization in less than a year, having left it alone for the previous nine decades. The equity was destroyed, but the wealth was transferred. And equity is where wealth resides in the dying economic paradigm.
There may be 40% less equity in the Dow Jones than there was in late 2007, but there is more equity that has been hidden and disguised by those who hold it. But even wealth transfers have a law of entropy. This is not a case where all those investments were converted 1:1 into some other form. The elites who thought they were immune are going down too, like dinosaurs who cannot grasp their impending extinction. Even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, has discovered himself mortal.
As the networks blithely talked about shareholder equity that was lost at the beginning of the collapse, they almost never mentioned how many billions of dollars pension funds, other institutional investors and individuals put back in to the markets when they bought more shares at newly lowered prices. When bubbles burst, those on the bottom literally pay twice. The first time, when they buy stocks that later tank, and again when they purchase new shares, hoping to make up for the equity they lost when the previous bubble burst. Does this sound like an out-of-control gambling addiction to you? What happened was that the people at the top got “their” money out, at the top. They sold their shares before the bubble burst. That’s why they call it “pump and dump.”
An American president cannot let this happen with a “Green Economy” for three reasons. First, the Treasury is empty and the United States now has its largest budget deficit ever, with the national debt exceeding $11 trillion. It doesn’t have many bailouts left, and these do absolutely nothing to solve the fundamental problem. They only impair the system’s ability to respond to new challenges, like feeding you when the time comes. Second, the infrastructure costs to assist in some kind of stable transition and to maintain basic services as oil and gas fade away are going to be astronomical. Third, the Green Economy has got to produce and deliver useable solutions quickly. We cannot afford energy bridges to nowhere that make great profit for investors but provide little or no real-world benefit. If the Green Economy doesn’t do this, then the nation will be left with a non-functioning energy infrastructure.
Beware of Greenwash hype.
A new level of oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), managed directly by the White House, is going to be essential. There will need to be the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for alternative energy companies which says that what they are selling will actually work. We know what to look for. The financial folks who will organize and fund the Green Economy willas a matter of coursebe of the same discipline, with the same priorities, trying to meet the same requirements as the folks who gave us Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, AIG, and Washington Mutual. If the Green Economy is to be any real help, it must have, as its only mandate, the development and delivery of alternative energy supplies and infrastructure and getting it to the American people in an efficient and speedy manner.
This will require a fundamental change in the way money works, and it will be directly addressed in the proposed policies which follow.