Bye-bye robber barons, hello next-gen cash machines! David Callahan exults in the Washington Post about today's enlightened billionaires and the twilight of the old style villainous extractors and manufacturers.
On one side are business leaders and shareholders who derive their wealth from resource extraction, fossil-fuel-based power generation and energy-intensive manufacturing -- they are the "dirty rich." On the other are business leaders who run knowledge or service companies that generate very little pollution -- the "clean rich."
The dirty rich are dying off, and the clean rich are coming of age.
Children of Light 1, Children of Darkness 0! But does economic dualism serve the environment or instead introduce what the French call a false clear idea? Extractive industries and manufacturing are essential even for developing greener technology. Wind turbines and solar panels are made of metals and minerals, too. Some mining and petroleum companies and their owners maybe sleazy, but others do the right thing. Many a green philanthropist is an heir of oil, steel, or automotive fortunes like some of the alleged dinosaurs cited in Mr. Callahan's piece. Does that make them evil? And if Chevron is developing ocean energy, does that make it clean? Even "Beyond Petroleum" BP was once owned by some environmental mutual funds.
Do Mr. Callahan's paragons really transcend the old industrial economy? Alice Walton, one of the "clean" rich, has inherited a fortune based on the big box store, with its 7,000 tractors and 50,000 trailers. Yes, Wal-Mart uses some hybrid Peterbilts, and is no doubt otherwise energy-efficient in its category, but it's still part of the highway-industrial complex. Likewise the financial fortunes that Mr. Callahan cites as "clean" derive in part from sprawl- and foreclosure-creating real estate deals.