A wonderful gentleman, Peter Kusterer, blogger extraordinaire from North Carolina called me the other day, and we chatted for some time. At the conclusion, he graciously asked me to send him any concluding thoughts I might have before he published his report on our talk. I thought I’d put them online:
I so enjoyed our talk the other day. At the close, you asked me to summarize my thinking on our prospects for clean energy and how this affects the trajectory for our civilization. In a nutshell:
Without an affirmative blow against corruption, we’re cooked. No one wants to hear this, but the truth is that the power that huge moneyed interests have over our lives lie in direct opposition to the interests of the common man. That power is used to pulverize ideas that might lessen the profit of corporate interest, and clean energy lies squarely in the cross-hairs.
But have I given up hope? Not at all. Witness the recent work of Jed Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. He recently took a rather unusual tack in telling the SEC that they cannot mete out an obvious slap on the wrist that they were ready to hand to Citigroup. Citigroup had offered to pay $285 million to settle allegations that the bank had misled clients into buying a mortgage-related security that its own traders were betting against, if it could do so without admitting wrongdoing.
Bargains like this one are reached constantly in which huge companies, whether they’re in finance, pharma or energy, who made billions of dollars in some criminal activity, harming countless millions of people, are happy to pay a paltry fine while not admitting guilt. Here’s a judge who somehow came into the middle of this disgusting scene, and found the SEC, eager to settle the case to get a “win” on their side, and the defendant, anxious to accept some form of settlement and sweep the case under the rug. To his credit (and my utter astonishment) he had the courage to say, “Sorry, no. We’re going to have a bit of actual justice here.”
How rare is this behavior? I’m more likely to be struck by lightening before I see the next one – or the outcome of this very case, whose appeals I’m sure will live in infamy for many years to come.
You posed a good question when you asked when we’ll replace fossil fuels and nuclear with renewables. The answer is as simple as it is problematic: when we have justice.