We have been told time and again that private industry is the engine driving innovation and the economy.
While to an extent this is true, we must not forget corporations’ number-one priority is to maximize profits.
If increasing a corporation’s bottom line and enriching its shareholders means dithering on enforcing environmental and worker safety regulations–or ignoring those regulations altogether–that’s just part of the cost of doing business, we’re told.
This has become Republican orthodoxy.
Republicans have convinced its base any attempt to rein in corporate polluters or malefactors is “Socialism”, and if the federal government even considers intervening, it risks “killing jobs” and wreaking untold havoc on the economy.
Without the federal government providing the blueprint for the future, industry is just going to keep chugging along as it always has polluting the air, water, and food for short-term profits–leaving the public to pay to clean up the mess.
Amid a historic flurry of executive orders these first weeks of his administration, Joe Biden issued several establishing the most progressive climate policy in history, including demanding the federal government pause and review oil and gas drilling on federal land, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and electrify the government’s 650,000-vehicle fleet.
In total, 21 federal agencies will now be parcel to an all-encompassing climate network.
While the fossil fuel industry is irate, General Motors (GM) has announced plans to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035 and go “carbon neutral” by 2040.
GM’s chief sustainability officer, Dane Parker, said recently:
“We’re taking actions so that we can eliminate tailpipe emissions by 2035. Setting a goal for us 15 years from now is absolutely reachable.”
GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, stated the company has worked with environmental advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to “develop a shared vision of an all-electric future and an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035”.
EDF president, Fred Krupp, explained:
“With this extraordinary step forward, GM is making it crystal clear that taking action to eliminate pollution from all new light-duty vehicles by 2035 is an essential element of any automaker’s business plan.”
To those who consider Biden’s policy initiatives and GM’s announcement mutually exclusive, consider Mary Barra’s support for Donald Trump’s roll back of Obama-era fuel economy standards contrasted with her current pro-Biden position.
Former GM executive, Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, stated in an interview:
“I had been saying to all the autos: ‘When Joe Biden gets elected, your world will turn upside down. You’ve got to be at the table or else this thing gets jammed down your throat.’”
It matters who is in the White House even if some changes do not come without a fight.
Some changes are slow; some don’t come at all.
Yet that doesn’t mean government’s influence over private industry is irrelevant or superfluous.
While it’s accurate to acknowledge the push and pull between government and industry, it is a fallacy to ignore government’s positive roll in shaping corporations’ policies and practices.
Biden’s present progressive stance on retooling America’s energy sector is an example of good government leading by example.
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