January 24 2012
Misplaced Priorities: Environmentalists, Junk Mail and the Keystone Pipeline
Carrie L. Lukas
Score a victory for the environmental lobby—but not for the environment—and a big loss for the American economy. By now Americans everywhere have heard that the Obama administration rejected the Keystone pipeline project, which analysts project would, at a minimum, create thousands of jobs. The Administration said they would consider an alternative application with a different pipeline route, but our Canadian neighbors may move to partner instead with the Chinese, and who can blame them.
One might have hoped that geopolitical concerns—the Islamic Republic of Iran recently threatened to close the straits of Hormuz, a move that would be a blow to the global energy market—would trump environmental politics. But not in 2012. Not with a presidential election in less than eleven months.
For President Obama, canceling the Keystone Oil Pipeline project was a chance to score a big victory for the Green movement after three years of disappointing them. After his failure to pass a “cap-and-trade” carbon tax scheme, the BP oil spill, the embarrassing Solyndra scandal which could undermine future government giveaways for “green job” efforts, President Obama must feel he owes environmentalists a very public win.
Yet smart Green voters surely recognize halting the Keystone Oil Pipeline is a symbolic victory at best. Canada is going to cultivate their tar sand resources with or without the U.S. Environmentalists may complain about Americans putting the interests of money over Mother Earth, but surely they recognize the Chinese—the likely alternate partner—are among the world's worst polluters and far less likely to take environmental precautions than Western energy companies under the supervision of America's many layers of regulators.
Tellingly, while Green groups made the Keystone Pipeline a cause celeb, they've ignored another debate with actual environmental implications that is pending in Washington. The fate of the U.S. Postal Service may not make headlines or bring Daryl Hannah out to the picket line, but there are real environmental issues at stake.
According to the anti-junk-mail group, 41pounds.org, more than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to create the junk mail that clutters our mailboxes and fills our garbage cans. Creating and shipping all of those unwanted catalogs and advertisements creates more greenhouse gasses than 9 million automobiles. As much as $320 million in local taxes are spent collecting and depositing unwanted junk mail into landfills each year.
And all of this is done to produce something that most Americans consider a nuisance. A 2007 Zogby poll found that 89 percent of Americans support the creation of a “Do Not Mail” registry similar to the popular “Do Not Call” list to block unwanted telemarketing. Other Western nations already offer citizens this service, which would be voluntary, so that anyone who wishes to receive unsolicited advertisements would be unaffected.
Congress is expected to vote on postal reform legislation early in 2012. This gives the environmental movement the chance to score a real victory for Mother Earth—and one that the American people would actually support. Yet there has been no push by Democratic lawmakers or encouragement from the environmental left to create a “Do Not Mail” registry.
Like with the Keystone Pipeline, Democrats likely see this as another issue that pits environmentalists against unions. The financially-strapped postal service would lose revenue if it was no longer paid to put unwanted flyers and catalogs in our mailboxes. It's union workers lugging all that paper around, and their paychecks could be in jeopardy if the practice is curbed.
Yet the Green movement and Obama Administration had no problem opposing job creation—including union-job creation—in the Keystone Pipeline battle. Looking at the two issues different political treatment, one can't help but conclude that much of environmental movement's primary interest is advancing big government and discouraging private sector growth, with environmental concerns little more than a fig leaf covering those true aims.
The American people—who want job creation, accessible energy resources, and a healthy environment—shouldn't fall for the hype of big-government environmentalists. They should support common sense policies like the Do Not Mail registry that improve the environment, without needlessly sacrificing economic progress.