As the budget clock ticks, the General Assembly has been taking its precious time figuring out how to resolve the mess. One imagines the legislators hiding in dark corners awaiting a miracle. What they need to be doing, at the very least, is making the sorts of noises that would show their comprehension of the problem — noises soundly rejecting audacious overtures such as that put forward jointly by the Sierra Club’s Chris Wilhite and the AFL-CIO’s George Nee:
If we are going to re-energize the Ocean State’s economy, we must start working today. We re-commend that all new publicly funded projects involving building construction have a requirement for a meaningful percentage of clean energy technology and transit-oriented design as part of the plan. Once the building is operational, this will result in ongoing savings to the taxpayers and an overall reduction in costly energy imports.
I’m all for making Rhode Island a leader in the newest energy technologies, and I’m certainly for investments in our economy, but those investments must not bring with them the taints that have helped to bring Rhode Island to its current state. Requiring all projects to incorporate a new layer of expense will simply drive up costs unnecessarily, with an unnecessary layer, also, of indirectness in the encouragement of the inchoate industry. George Nee lets slip his motivation, and the fatal attribute of the proposal, when he writes:
It would generate many new good union jobs and move us toward energy independence.
If we’re looking to race ahead with the future of energy, it makes little sense to charge the unions with the task of building the industry. Better to loosen the government’s hand, rather than tighten the union’s. If anything, legislation requiring environmentally conscious energy provisions should also exempt such projects from the requirement to go union at all.
I fear that, whatever the merits of forward-looking proposals, Rhode Island will manage to squander its opportunities for the benefit of the four horsemen of its apocalypse.