Do Green and Rust Mix At All?
Slates Mickey Kaus points us to an article in the National Journal by Ron Brownstein. It asks one question about my home town (and “rust belt” cities in general), and about the hopes that these town have to rebuild and revitalize on waves of “Green Manufacturing”. The question is: What are they smoking?
For officials at every level, the great hope is that these fading car towns can move from rust to green, from building autos to manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels or buses and subway cars. These places offer many advantages for such production: factories, supply chains, transportation links, and a skilled workforce “that knows how to do metal,” as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio says.
Well, those seem like pretty good reasons. Brownstein continues:
But there are few examples of such conversions succeeding in the auto plants already closed, notes Dan Luria, research director for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, a government-business partnership. And although Obama’s policies ensure that the U.S. will buy more alternative energy and transit equipment in the years ahead, Luria says, there’s no guarantee that those products will be built in America, much less in these particular communities, unless Washington encourages it through an integrated set of carrots and sticks beyond anything under discussion. Brown, likewise, is urging a national manufacturing policy.
Well, given their advantages, why wouldn’t autos be built in Detroit, and subway cars in Wayne, and wind turbines and solar panels in Buffalo? Kaus throws a clue brick.
Hmm. Why might manufacturers of “alternative energy and transit equipment” want to avoid locating their factories in the heavily-unionized rustbelt? Do you think the ongoing example of Detroit’s Big Three might have a cautionary effect on their decision-making?
The research director, Laria, quoted by Brownstein above, encourages the Obama administration to use “an integrated set of carrots and sticks” to overcome this – um… hesitation. In English, Kaus notes that it’s also called a “national manufacturing policy”. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Make them stay in Detroit if they want to build “alternative energy and transit equipment”. They use policy like that all the time. In communist China and Cuba.