Saturday, December 26, 2009

Will Our 'Green Jobs' Dollars Help a Ritzy Car Company Open a Toxic Manufacturing Plant? | Politics | AlterNet

2389356214_0277f6694d_b.jpgTesla Motors has been hunting for a production plant at which to build their Model S sedan. A likely site is in Downey CA, and a recent article suggests this comes with serious toxic problems. Further that it's tax dollars being put to use to develop green industry that is, in part, supporting Tesla to build this plant.

Let's look first at the government loans. The article discusses it as "tax dollars" being handed over to Tesla. The money is part of the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program whose purpose is to expand green business and especially manufacturing work related to green technology. The article doesn't make it very clear, but this is a loan not a grant. Tesla is required to repay the loan (it is a loan after all) and there are stringent business development goals Tesla has to meet for each phase the loan program. (See: Fisker, the vast rightwing conspiracy, and the $528 Mil DOE loan)

Many recent articles have raised the question of the proper role for government to play in shaping the economy and businesses around us. It seems many believe the government should keep it's hands off free market economic forces, and that the economy will sort everything out. On the other hand the DOE claims the program serves the common good of helping the country become free of foreign oil dependency. In my mind this is a very good argument especially because economic forces is a very bad mechanism for weaning the country from fossil fuels.

The last part of this saga is the plant that Tesla is looking at. It used to be a Boeing plant, for 70+ years, and is now thought to be very toxic. The article quotes a few people discussing health problems they think stem from work at that site. The site is currently underused because Boeing abandoned it a couple decades ago.

In other words it sounds like the typical polluted ex-industrial site. Maybe the local government desperately wants some industry at that location but there's a question over what to do about the pollution. However the article doesn't make it clear there is documented evidence of toxic pollution, instead it gives some hearsay style interviews.

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