MFG 2.0

...In Which I Tell Al Gore, And NAM, To Shut Up.

Now that Al Gore's gone and surfaced again, I've been seeing a lot of hysteria on both sides of the debate ("He's being taken too seriously!" vs. "You're not taking him seriously enough!")

Now, I don't agree with "the Goracle" on every thing, far from it. In fact, at this point in history, I really don't care about, or care much for, Al Gore. In fact, I'd wager -- and I'll argue in a quick rant here -- that he's much more of an impediment to the progress of driving sustainability into business process than he is an effective evangelist for the same.

There is one thing I do agree with Al Gore on, in principle if not in timing, and that is the need for the U.S. to start moving towards a post-petroleum economy. There are 1,001 reasons to start this shift, like, yesterday -- reasons of national security, energy independence, national competitiveness, the fact that the oil-based economy is a holdover from the 19th century, to name a quick few (I could go on).

The signs pointing towards the necessity of this shift are everywhere, and only get obscured by all the speechifying and media blitzing on both sides of what is actually a false debate. The "greening" of business is not going to stop, and it's not going to happen overnight, no matter what the apologists say on either side.

In the meantime, we need to stop the spin, or at least recognize it for what it is, which is mostly a lot of BS and posturing. Al Gore knows that ten years is simply nowhere near a feasible goal for initiating this shift in an economically responsible manner, so why is he saying it?

On the other side, drilling the Outer Continental Shelf is also definitely not the answer to our energy needs, and anyone that says that it is, is lying. When you hear someone as completely oil-steeped and ruthlessly profit-minded as T. Boone Pickens say we can't drill our way out of this problem, I think it's time to wake up and start exploring other options than some possibly hypothetical and definitely inadequate oil reserves off the Gulf Coast somewhere. (Quick aside -- just how ironic is it when T. Boone Pickens is arguably having more positive a benefit on the sustainability debate than Al Gore?)

So having the reactionaries in the business world parroting American Petroleum Institute talking points while having Al Gore as a straw man with which to scare industry makes for a doubly counterproductive force in the discussion.

Anyone with open eyes can see that we're at a turning point in the era of globalization. America can either drive the future of the global "green economy," or we can watch it pass us by. As the greatest and most dynamic innovation economy to ever grace the face of this planet, by all rights we could and should be leading this shift. Instead, we're misdirecting our national resources in pursuit of other people's natural resources, and spending 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq for what many argue is a resource grab on behalf of big oil.

(All told, the Iraq War is expected to cost upwards of 3 trillion dollars. What else could we have done with $3 trillion dollars? Find out here.)

Now I'm not sure this is the case, although I must say that we're at about the fourth or fifth reason for invading that country, and none of them have panned out so far. What I am sure of is, we could surely have invested in innovating new and cleaner technologies for electricity production, transportation, etc.

Instead, what do we get from our leadership? A lot of hot air on both sides.

I know that when I read NAM's blogs, I get a lot of anti-Al Gore rhetoric and very clear picture of their relentless pursuit on behalf of big oil's agenda, and not much else. I wonder what NAM would say to the guy from the biofuel pump manufacturing startup I spoke to yesterday about the huge subsidies and tax credits, both direct and indirect, and willful ignorance of entire categories of negative externalities, being handed to one single sector of manufacturing -- oil and gas -- at the expense of the others?

And what of the wind turbine supply chain, members of which have seen their industry's tax credit get sacrificed again and again (and set to expire again in 2008) which could cost the U.S. 112,000 jobs and 19 billion in investment at a crucial point in this industry's development?

Where is their advocate? Oh yeah -- fighting CAFE increases tooth and nail, and lobbying like mad for offshore oil drilling, to keep industry and consumers strung out on oil as long as possible.

So, to sum up, here's my opinion -- NAM, maybe you should spend a little less time obsessing about Al Gore and pushing big oil's agenda, and a little more time focusing on helping alternative energy companies get off the ground.

And Al, I know 10 years is a nice clean figure for you to stick in a powerpoint and bandy about from some stage somewhere, but understand that your "stretch goals" constrict the debate for the rest of us trying to have a real discussion about very real issues in the business world.

TAGS: Innovation
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