Seventeen states may be all that lies between saving America as a single nation or having it disintegrate.
The critical issue is the conflict between fossil fuels and clean energy.
It represents the pinnacle of the nation’s progressive-conservative culture wars. These began with abortion and have climaxed with climate change.
On one side lies the conservative American interior states. Heavily influenced by churches and fossil fuel energy companies. Many of these live by litmus tests of faith such as decrying global warming as a hoax and birth control as damnation.
On the other side exist coastal secular states influenced by America’s best higher education institutions. These populations largely agree with the scientific consensus global warming is real. They further agree renewable energy is an economic opportunity and issues such as birth control are individual, not collective, choices.
Going against the grain of this worsening national political divide, 17 states ranging from the most backwardly conservative (Iowa) to the most forwardly progressive (California) have agreed to swim against the ugly tide of violent right-wing populism.
They have agreed to work together at the state level to move toward environmental sustainability.
While falling short of agreeing to a 100% renewable energy manifesto, the states all endorsed the goal of improving energy efficiency, refurbishing electricity grids and encouraging renewable energy among other good ideas.
During the thuggish Trump years ahead such left-right voices of reason may be what saves the American union from breaking up as the more progressive Pacific and Atlantic coastal states consider seceding and potentially join Canada.
The worst case could happen as early as 2018, when California’s voters will consider a secession referendum. Depending on the margin of victory in the referendum, should it occur — it could set the nation on a long-term path toward breakup.
The best outcome, however, would be for the angry right demographic created and fed first by Rupert Murdoch and then by fake news entrepreneurs like Breitbart News to realize the Pandora’s Box that’s been created by winding up the ill-informed in order to sell advertising.
Should America disintegrate due to this, the returns to ‘grievance media’ enterprises would collapse, along with international political stability.
That, in turn, is what makes the ‘Governor’s Accord for a New Energy Future’ perhaps the brightest development in a dark overall picture. The accord is an agreement by 17 American states that span the national political divide to move toward a green economy.
The states include left leaning California and New York, but also rightward leaning states like Michigan and Virginia.
Handled correctly, implementation of the Accord could create a constructive political realignment based upon grasping the business opportunity of decarbonization.
As the American economy improves and jobs in the interior are created through moving beyond carbon, the political divide between the heartland the coasts may narrow.
As this occurs, the United States might once again become outward looking instead of inwardly obssessed. This would benefit everyone.
In the early 20th Century, American isolationism brought the country little and helped either foster or prolong two World Wars. International engagement by the United States after World War II, by contrast, brought the US widely-admired global leadership for nearly half a century.
America can regain this leadership by, at first, healing its internal divisions using clean energy as the paltofrm.
Proactive solutions would involve moving to merge and standardize carbon trading between California’s cap and trade system, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative trading platform of several Eastern states, Mexico’s fledgling carbon markets and Canada’s emerging carbon pricing schemes.
As prices converge through deeper linkages among the above, it would further drive economic integration between Canada, the US and Mexico, making the three a stronger regional economic unit. This in turn could help pull the global economy upward.
As political polarization lessens and rational minds grow more influential, the United States could even consider moving back to implementing a future version of the media ‘fairness doctrine.’
This requires media outlets to present both sides of political issues to ensure balance.