“We Suck Less” is Not a Good National Industrial Policy

As an analyst, you tend to think broadly about issues and not just look at the nuts and bolts, but also at what the assembled product might look like and do.  Then there’s the human interaction from travelling to various corners of the globe and meeting other itinerant observers at tradeshows, discussing business conditions and other trends, what’s on the horizon, what is of concern, and where opportunities lie – lots of interesting conversations.  Even talks with taxicab drivers can generate a lot of comparative insights – I have come across many (especially here in the US) that are underemployed recent immigrants with substantial education behind them in the old country and now spend time behind the wheel thinking.

If our talks aren’t about personal or business success, it often drifts toward US competitiveness – business investments – and, much as I think the US still is a great place to do business, I am really concerned over what is going on.

Energy and resources, educated workforce, taxes and regulations – we need plenty of two of these components and a modicum of the third is unavoidable. Especially on the federal side, but at the state level too, the order of these keys to business success is unfortunately jumbled. Consider the following.

Natural resources – energy – and regulations

The Keystone XL line – will it ever be built? Refineries (the few we have left) are turning to rail transport instead, which is not exactly the environmentally friendly option. And rail isn’t keeping the greenies happy either. Look at the Bakken field in Dakotas and their transportation hardships in getting the oil to the West Coast, eventually settling on the Port of Vancouver, USA for a new terminal (but there’s activity in other parts of Washington as well). However, there’s opposition in Oregon as well as in California.  Must be tough to say both more rail (commuters) and less rail (coal, oil, etc.) at the same time, with a straight face.

Then you have the climate change boondoggle – and the Administration’s ongoing efforts to kill off coal as a viable source of power. Call it the war on coal. Let’s not talk too much about our nuclear plants – so many rallies to shut them down – although the plans to open up new plants are encouraging. On the nuclear note, the Feds (DOE) got a court face slap over their Yucca Mountain fee collections recently. You can’t collect if you’re not doing anything to open the facility.

At least we’re seeing increased awareness of the problems with wind power – ironically not because of the poor economic cost-benefit with these devices, but because they slaughter birds and bats by the truckload.

Where will we get power? The NIMBY (not in my back yard) and BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone) attitudes (ahem, California) might feel good to those afflicted, but in the aggregate it’s paralyzing the nation.

By the way, our air is better than it’s been since the EPA started tracking air quality. Just look at these stats, covering the decreased emissions over the 1980-2005 period despite increased miles driven and greater economic output.

air quality

Check back later today for the second part of this post, where Thomas will tackle taxes and regulation and unions, before ending with a lesson for procurement. 

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