Know your enemy: the environmental regulator.
If you work in an industry and gain a reputation for being one of the more knowledgeable people knocking around in it, you’ll eventually be asked to attend external meetings to discuss things like standards or simply to represent the particular sector you are working in. They’re usually useful if only because you can share ideas and make a few informal contacts.
One of those periodic meetings ended up with me working within a regulatory organisation for a period of time. Most regulators are keen to have practitioners on board who have a breath of real experience in the industry, because they’ve usually got too many people who’ve got very little and really don’t understand what intelligent regulation is all about. There is a tricky balance which has to be struck by any regulator between not stifling the growth of an industry and yet protecting it and the consumer from its own excesses.
I’ve seen a senior head of department at a top table meeting get reminded rather forcefully by the chief executive that their job was to stabilise the industry rather than mount a crusade to close it down. That creeping tendency to control rather than regulate, is by now rampant in the regulatory agencies dealing with the environment.
Like all systemic rot in any organisation, it always starts from the top. Political appointees are put in place to head them up and their subordinates naturally take their cue from them. If the CEO is determined to cripple an industry, then that’s the direction that the regulations will take. This situation is further compounded by them recruiting like-minded people, because a pervasive cronyism always goes hand in hand with bad management situations.
The reason such political beasts with their own stealth agendas are put in control, is to draft regulations which effectively implement legislation that wouldn’t stand a chance of making it through the legislative body of the particular country. For instance, the Kyoto protocol and Cap and Trade legislation were comprehensively rejected by the US Congress because they were rightly perceived as effectively closing down all heavy industry. By appointing the appropriate person to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the same effect could be achieved without any further reference to Congress.
This is quite simply a circumvention of the whole democratic process, especially when it’s combined with things such as presidential executive orders, requiring no approval from an elected legislature.
The previous EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson resigned over questions raised because of her email correspondence on official business using a false email address. A lot of frankly unbelievable excuses were given for such a blatantly suspect practice by a government employee but the obvious explanation is that she was actively trying to circumvent FOIA disclosure requests. I’ll leave it to you to speculate about why and with whom the use of such an underhand method of communications was necessary. As I’ve said, the rot goes downward from there; at least two of her subordinates were subsequently found to be doing exactly the same thing.
But that sort of rot permeates down even further to the minor officials and it becomes an unthinking bunker mind-set. A regional administrator of the EPA didn’t see any problem in admitting on camera that the EPA’s “general philosophy” is to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies. When the video came to light, he of course was encouraged to fall on his sword and was quickly reemployed by a green pressure organisation.
The EPA is by now a thoroughly corrupted regulatory institution. The classic way that usually happened was when a regulator became a self-perpetuating organisation by simply framing more and more intricate regulations, because it guaranteed a living irrespective of the effect such rules had on the industry they were intended to regulate.
What’s new about the EPA and similar organisations around the world, is that it’s on its own political crusade, which is why American heavy industry and it are at daggers drawn. The obvious intent is that heavy industry is to be subsumed under a deluge of painfully detailed regulations, which are well-nigh impossible to meet in any cost-effective manner. It’s spawned a whole new profession in commerce that goes under the generic title of a compliance officer, whose job is to become familiar with and find a way through a labyrinth of ever-changing rules.
The EPA is the most extreme case but the same phenomenon is apparent around the world and at times it looks nothing more than spiteful officialdom picking on businesses or individuals they don’t like. An appalling example of that is the treatment of the Thompson family, whose successful business was forced to close by DEC, the Australian equivalent of the EPA, simply because they’d publically expressed scepticism about global warming.
One of the causes I’d never envisioned having to pursue on this blog was the growth of fuel poverty in the developed world. Beyond estimates by various charitable organisations, hard numbers are difficult to come by. The only government organisation I can find who publish official statistics on it is the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC). They publish the figures every summer and not only are they three years in arrears but when discussing the reasons behind the rocketing trend, never once mention the effect of rising green taxes on power bills to subsidise the renewables industry.
When a regulator is being that deceptive by omission, then even the numbers furnished by them on such a politically sensitive issue have to be suspect, especially as they have also just decided to change the official definition of what constitutes fuel poverty to something much more vague, the net effect of which will be to magically remove over a million families from fuel poverty at the wave of a bureaucratic wand. It’s just a pity that it doesn’t remove the preventable cold-related deaths as well.
The essential problem is that these regulatory organisations are not only headed up and run by people on a righteous crusade to save the planet but also the influential input to them comes from environmental pressure groups and not industry, hence the need for quasi-legal things like covert communication channels using phony email personas. In passing, when I use the term persona, rather than just email address, I mean they had two login accounts in their systems. This is proved, don’t laugh, by Lisa Jackson passing an online ethics course logged in under her alias. Her alter ego of Richard Windsor got the certificate, not her.
This wholly inappropriate relationship is graphically illustrated by a cynical trick called sue and settle. An environmental pressure group mounts a law suit against the regulator to get an extreme interpretation of the rules enforced and the regulator promptly folds with nothing more than a token fight. It’s just a comfortable charade being played out by both parties, which was worked out well beforehand and gives the regulator a bone fide excuse for setting the most onerous regulations possible.
Criminally negligent government energy policies over power generation, combined with draconian regulatory regimes determined to close down coal generation capacity, will result in blackouts within the next few years, simply because there’s no viable replacement. The result of that will be the shutdown of manufacturing or its flight to other countries, who don’t have an intermittent third world power supply.
The effect of that catastrophe will be felt well outside manufacturing. Apart from the domestic misery it’ll cause, what business nowadays can function without computers or phones or indeed anything electrical?
Something will have to be done, as they say, but looking around for any political will to do something about the situation coming at us, I fear that’ll only happen when we’ve already hit the wall.
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