On first glance, the most remarkable aspect of Bush's State of the Union address last Tuesday night was that he managed to get through the whole thing with nary a stutter or bout of nervous giggling. Perhaps his unusual state of ease (emotionally and with the English language) was due to a decision on his part to accept his current situation and phone the whole thing in. Whatever you want to call it, it was probably one of the most successful public speaking appearances that Bushie-boy has made to date.
Also remarkable? That the entire speech seemed to have been written by the good people of General Electric. In fact, writer Tim Carney* notes that seven out of the nine pillars of GE's new feel-good environmental and energy initiative bearing the impossibly corny name of "Ecomagination" found their way into the energy policies Bush called on Congress to foster (read: "subsidize"). Mr. President started by asking for congressional action promoting "even greater use of clean-coal technology," solar, wind and nuclear power. Similarly, GE, Carney writes,
…has launched an ambitious partnership to build coal gasification power plants. Such plants are much more expensive (at least 20 percent according to industry experts) to operate than standard coal power plants, and become profitable only with subsidies or other government favors. Specifically, GE has figured out how to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from these plants, and now is lobbying on Capitol Hill for mandatory limits on CO2 emissions — thus driving demand for their costly coal plants.
GE Bush and GE also see eye to eye on the development of solar power and biofuels; but these technologies, Carney notes, are only profitable when they have the government assistance that, quite conveniently, the State of the Union asked for on Tuesday.
The Dubya was probably ready to stop there but GE is a big company, and so he had to go on to call for "battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles," more "clean diesel" and biodiesel. What a happy coincidence that GE and General Motors just unveiled the Chevrolet Volt, a "next-generation hybrid vehicle that can go 40 miles each day on purely electric power," and can also—wait for it—run on biodiesel. And GE currently has a "clean diesel" train.
The cause-and-effect relationship between GE's investments, GE's lobbying and Washington's policies is probably a complex one. GE is also a famously flexible, diversified and dynamic business. If executives see that government policy is likely to move in a specific direction, GE can make sure it is there, waiting to profit from the policies when they arrive. This is probably a large
part of what drives initiatives such as Ecomagination.
But with its behemoth lobbying budget, after GE has bet on a policy—such as subsidies for windmills—GE can make sure those policies are, in fact, put in place and kept in place.
If Tuesday night was any indication, the state of GE is strong.
We knew Bush would be a "CEO President" but we didn't think that meant "Jeff Immelt."
*who has the distinct pleasure of being one of our fearless leader's
three young brothers, the author of "The Big Ripoff: How Big Business
and Big Government steal your money," and holds no stock in General
Electric nor the Bush Administration.
What’s good for General Electric [Examiner.com]