Obama Blocking Transparency at WTO?
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Minnesota: New Front in Fight for Public Interest, Eh?!

Minnesota is moving to encourage renewable energy by slapping a tariff on coal energy produced in North Dakota, and challenging the global economic order in the process.Carbon-tax

And so opens another front in a much larger battle for the legal and policy space to enact common sense public interest regulations and curb the corporate profit crusade. It's a fight that's vital to the creation of a economic model that averts climate catastrophe and provides dignified living for workers.

Penalizing unsustainable or unethical products, or supporting sustainable and ethical ones, is seen by public interest groups across the globe as a key tool for improving labor conditions and environmental standards. But free-market fundamentalists have long insisted that 'similar' products, in this case electricity, must be treated 'similarly'.

Disgracefully, substantial differences in the ways a product is made are purposefully erased for policy-makers so corporations can hunt for cheaper inputs and thus higher profits. A toy made by a toxic-pollution dumping factory vs. a clean factory? Same. Clothes made with slave labor vs. union labor? Same. Energy generated in a way that fuels climate change vs. renewable energy? Its all the same under corporate free-market logic.

But the corporate types have been winning. They've gotten their faulty logic inscribed in our global trade pacts like NAFTA and the WTO, which provide harsh penalties for transgressions. In so doing they've been able to use the bogeyman of trade sanctions to stifle innovative, quality of life-improving policy tools.

But this hasn't stopped Minnesota from pushing forward. Joshua Frank at Truthout tells more about Minnesota’s scoffing at the corporate scheme with their plan to tax high-carbon energy crossing state lines from North Dakota:

While there has been a lot of huffing and puffing about carbon tariffs in the past from countries that want to stick a tax on items that are produced in polluting industries, Minnesota's move is the first of its kind.

Currently, the law does not mandate a carbon tariff; it only provides the
framework to create such a pricing mechanism if a tax on carbon emissions becomes necessary in the future. Minnesota is currently looking at pricing guidelines for a likely utility rate increase in 2012.

Minnesota is hoping to pressure its neighbor to the west to drop coal and embrace renewable energy sources. North Dakota has ample wind energy potential and has even been called the "Saudi Arabia of Wind."

Like the climate legislation passed in the House last year, which also would impose penalties on imports with insufficient carbon regulation, this time from other countries, the proposed Minnesota policy rubs up against the same profit-hungry logic by 'discriminating' against high-carbon energy.

But, even experts from vastly differing philosophical bents agree that in order to address the climate crisis, this logic is no good. Not only should the government intervene in the market to penalize high-carbon goods to stave off climate catastrophe, but it will have to do so in order to change failed trade rules to do so.

The corporate market fundamentalists won't go down without a fight, and neither should we. That's why groups like Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers union, the Teamsters, and a broad array of other unions and family farm groups are pushing to take back the space to protect workers and our environment with the TRADE Act. It's a comprehensive blueprint for fixing our failed trade policies and restoring space for democratic policy space needed to trump corporate power. put people back to work, and save the planet.

Whether or not the Minnesota policy is implemented and upheld, the fight is on to take back the policy space necessary to win concrete improvements in production methods and labor conditions. The more we fight to shift the paradigm in favor of a sustainable global economy, the better.

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