05 June 2012

Water security and exporting US expertise

About a month ago, I attended Global Water Security: The Intelligence Community Assessment in Washington DC. This report was perhaps coincidental to the report released by the State Department a month earlier, but it indicates an increasing interest in competition over water in an era of scarcity.

Unfortunately, it seems that the intelligence community is, once again, in the land of oxymorons. The unclassified report is 16 pages and pretty worthless. Perhaps the classified, 80 page version is better, but we'll never know that.

Here are a few highlights of the worthlessness:
  1. The report was strong on central planning and weak on local, decentralized solutions. That's the wrong paradigm for water, but not for government representatives who like power.
  2. They claimed that "expertise" sits within the government, but that's certainly not allowed out of the building (economists within the government surely know how bad corn ethanol is for the economy, environment and small farmers, but corn ethanol policy is based on pork for agri-business and campaign contributions to corn state politicians).
  3. The report claimed that the US could export its water expertise around the world. hahahaha!
  4. The report claimed that many technological solutions existed. Yes, perhaps, but policies ALWAYS trump technology.
  5. There was some mention of water footprinting as a means of regulating trade. That's a stupid idea given the ways that footprinting can't be correctly measured (let alone the disregard exporters and politicians have for sustainability when there's money to be made). Better to limit water use to sustainable levels and allow exports of whatever results.
  6. Of the panelists, the two outsiders -- Ellen Laipson and Alexandra Cousteau -- made the most sense, perhaps because they have been outside their offices and DC, to learn about real problems.
Bottom Line: The national security folks do not know what they are talking about on sustainable water policies. I sure hope that they do not ruin water in the same way they have ruined peace.

1 comment:

  1. One of the interesting things I’ve realized in all of my political work is that liberals ALWAYS choose government to solve any problem, rather than taking on the problem themselves locally, in their state, etc.

    It’s an interesting behavior from an organizational behavior point of view, because govt rarely can do it better, cheaper, or faster let alone actually “solve” a problem. Govt almost always perpetuates the problem by only addressing the symptoms and not the core issue.

    If govt can do it, then I don’t have to. But it doesn’t work, in most areas of life.

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