A dose of financial reality

A dose of financial reality

June 29th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

It is easy for the government to impose strict environmental rules on how businesses must be run, because the businesses, not the government, have to pay the cost of meeting those rules.

So it was refreshing recently when multiple Chattanooga-area business leaders and public officials pointed out during a forum on "green" initiatives the impracticality and even unpopularity of so many of those initiatives.

n Wejun Robinson, the general manager of Top Flight paper products company, based in Chattanooga, said companies often cannot justify the high cost of projects such as installing solar panels. Only with government subsidies will most businesses consider installing solar panels, he noted.

"You can't do solar on your own," he added.

n Guenther Scherelis, spokesman for Volkswagen Group of America, said consumers are not willing to face steeper taxes or higher prices for many products that are considered more environmentally friendly. He said that in his native Germany, it has taken "a lot of state intervention" to get the public to embrace green products and practices. In fact, he added, "without the government, in Germany it wouldn't work."

n State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said that where environmental legislation is concerned, "Every solution you come up with, you discover five or six problems." He recommended tapping our own nation's oil and natural gas resources rather than putting them off limits for questionable environmental reasons.

The leaders' remarks came during a visit to Chattanooga by Democrat former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who wants Congress to use its legislative power to further promote electric vehicles. She also wants our country to get a fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. But that comes with a price. When California tried to set lofty goals for renewable energy, it drove industry out of the state because electricity costs skyrocketed.

Business leaders in Chattanooga certainly are not opposed to reasonable conservation, but they pointed out that somebody has to pay the bills for expensive environmental initiatives.

We can't wish those bills away. We have to balance conservation with our need for energy. Unfortunately, that cannot be accomplished through imposition of costly "green" schemes by Washington.