Friday, October 26, 2007

Firestorms ask: How green is my insurance commissioner?

Although the job of (statewide elected California) Insurance Commissioner is not often associated with environmental issues, both the current and the immediate past job holders ran green. With the Southern California firestorms highlighting the effect of global climate change on the possibility of disasters and their attendant insurance claims, one wonders, what will/have these insurance commissioners done to move the insurance industry into political/economic reality?

In Europe, the insurance industry has been a crucial partner with environmentalists to pursue sane environmental policies that stem the production of greenhouse gases, thereby slowing global climate change, and protecting their bottom line.

In the U.S., the insurance industry routinely acts in lockstep with the Chamber of Commerce to oppose environmental bills which inconvenience polluters.

Past (Democratic) Insurance Commissioner and current Lt. Governor John Garamendi wants to be governor of California. He calls himself an environmentalist and campaigns on the need to do something about global climate change. Yet, when he was Insurance Commissioner did he use his position to nudge the insurance industry out of its historically anti-environmental stance? I don't recall hearing about such efforts.

Of course in his current job, the rigors of whale-naming duties prohibit him from having much affect over environmental policy--but did he do it when he could?

Current (Republican) Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner also calls himself an environmentalist (increasingly a requirement for election to statewide office--the only two Republicans elected, Schwarzenegger and Poizner statewide positioned themselves credibly as environmentalists). Here's his chance to prove it.

Of course no regulator alone can be responsible for the overhauling the recalcitrant political habits of an entire industry, but they can use the bully pulpit to raise the issues, educate the industry as to their bottom line interests and make it inconvenient to continue to behave irresponsibly, for their shareholders, if not for their insured.

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