Killing coal, tilting at windmills

Despite ever increasing electricity demands, there’s a huge slowdown in the construction of coal fired power plants–nine just this year, enough to provide electricity to 5-million homes. With Bush out of office and Obama in, environmentalists are winning this battle, but who is losing?

Even though the science on global warming is far from certain, the amount of carbon dioxide our industrial nations are pumping into the atmosphere is cause for concern. There’s also the mercury and ash containment issues that haven’t been adequately dealt with either. But….what happens to the economic health of a country that continues to make energy, particularly electricity, more expensive and harder to get. Average consumers think they can dial back the thermostat, plug in a few compact fluorescents and solar and wind power will have us breezing into a new environmental Valhalla.

But a far bigger challenge is manufacturing, which uses more electricity than most people realize, especially today’s high tech indusries. If electricity becomes prohibitively expensive in this country, that will only drive more of our dwindling manufacturing sector offshore. And without a manufacturing  recovery we will never have a economic recovery. Forty percent of corporate profits (before they all went into a tailspin last fall) came from the financial sector, and that’s not healthy. Somebody has to make the cars, grow the food and build the homes and schools. And if the government’s industrial policy is driven exclusively by environmental zealots, we’ll only be outsourcing our pollution and putting paychecks that used to sustain American families in the hands of more foreigners.

Every successful construction contractor I’ve ever met, including this year’s Contractor of the Year, says the same thing: If you want to be successful, you have to know your numbers. You have to nail your butt to a chair for agonizingly long periods of time and study the money coming in and the money going out. Otherwise you go broke and never know why. I think it’s true of any successful business person.  The trouble with the crowd we have making policy in the Washington D.C. today is that none of them are businessmen. None of them have even a passing understanding of how hard it is to make money and a real economy grow. As a nation we will grow poorer and more dependent on Wall Street and the government to keep creating funny money until the environmentalists and the industrialists sit down and get serious about the numbers. It’s time to cut the dreamers and schemers out of government and make choices based on hard cold facts.