We Don’t Like The Market, Give Us The State

Maybe you’ve heard about LEED.  Maybe not.

It’s an industry-focused sustainable/green building standard.  The standards are set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization.  It is not a governmental organization.

It is precisely an example of an industry forming its own regulatory structure without getting the government involved.  This is, ostensibly, the approach advocated for by the GOP.

The sustainability metrics exclude certain types of fairly profitable resource gathering, due to its attempts to correct for externalities.  This has the inevitable consequence that certain (fairly profitable) construction materials <em>providers</em> are excluded from contributing to LEED-certified construction projects.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that when the state doesn’t require you to meet regulatory standards, but the marketplace does… you’ll just turn to the state to beat up on the marketplace.

(disclaimer: I have not fact-checked this article as yet).

Notable note: the states mentioned in this article?  Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.  Alabama and Georgia, according to the article, have done this by executive decree.

Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley?  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal?  Both Republicans.

 

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8 thoughts on “We Don’t Like The Market, Give Us The State

  1. I get where you’re coming from, Patrick, but I don’t quite agree with this line: “Unsurprisingly, it turns out that when the state doesn’t require you to meet regulatory standards, but the marketplace does… you’ll just turn to the state to beat up on the marketplace.”

    The corporations that aren’t LEED-compliant (or whatever word fits better) aren’t beating up on the marketplace. The marketplace can still adhere to LEED standards. They’ve just convinced the government not to adhere to LEED standards for the government’s building projects.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for government projects being environmentally friendly (I don’t know enough about LEED to approve or disapprove of it, specifically). My hope (not that I’m particularly optimistic) would be that citizens/voters would disapprove of these government decisions.

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    • They’ve just convinced the government not to adhere to LEED standards for the government’s building projects.

      My reading of the article (again, disclaimer, no fact-checking) is that they’ve used the power of the State to forbid local governments from using LEED standards and have instead demanded that they use a specific, non-LEED standard that is more advantageous to certain industries.

      This violates the ideals of layered government, where decisions are made closest to the problem.

      It also sounds an awful lot to me like rent-seeking. “We don’t like this regulatory framework that the market came up with without any government intervention. So here’s a different one, and the state *will* use that one”.

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      • This violates the ideals of layered government

        Sure, and that’s a problem. But what the state isn’t intervening in the free market (not through this particular regulation, anyway). It’s regulating local governments, which are essentially wholly-owned subsidiaries. Though obviously just because it has the legal authority to do so doesn’t mean it should.

        It also sounds an awful lot to me like rent-seeking.

        It does, yes. But to play Devil’s advocate, sometimes standards are created for rent-seeking purposes. For example, a standard may not be justified on its merits, but rather have been created primarily for the purpose of giving a competitive edge to companies which are more easily able to comply with the standards.

        Is that the case here? I don’t know. I doubt it. Just saying that the details matter.

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  2. The GOP reflexively abhors adjectives such as Green and Sustainable, no matter who uses them. In any other standards-based industry, where better standards translate into efficiencies and lowered costs, initiatives such as LEED would justify themselves.

    But then, Republicans are not exactly modern, scientific people.

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  3. A couple of things-
    Local governments often require that designs conform to LEED; these states are overruling that ability, and forbidding a local government from doing what they want.

    While they can buy time, the tide of history isn’t really on the side of the anti-LEED activists.
    LEED has grown less as a result of wolly treehugging sentiment , but more by market forces.

    The centerpiece of LEED ratings is reducing embedded energy- which is why for instance, local materials are given preference over imported; why recycled products are preferred over virgin material.

    There is a reason you might be seeing new solar panel carports covering parking lots- energy costs are rising, and aren’t coming down anytime on the horizon. Shipping stuff from China isn’t getting cheaper, and probably won’t ever be this cheap again.

    Whether a local government demands that its new city hall be LEED compliant or not, you can bet their facilities manager will insist that it have lower utility bills- which means stuff like LED lights, waterless urinals, and drought resistant landscaping.

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