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Archive for March, 2012

A Transitory Opportunity

Posted by wastedenergy on March 30, 2012

Anytime I’m about to say what I’m about to say, I feel it necessary to open with a qualifying statement:  Better to be half right than completely wrong.

So when it comes to comparing energy and transportation policies between the major political parties of the United States, it is very important to keep in mind that Republicans couldn’t have it more wrong.  Their notion of an energy policy is to remove all environmental barriers to fossil fuel production in ways that would have no impact on domestic supplies or prices while continuing to provide unneeded subsidies to old industries and systematically undercutting support for any alternatives.  In other words, they want you hooked on their patrons’ product, and they don’t want people entertaining any ideas about alternatives anytime soon.  What they want is for you to get steadily nickeled and dimed into oblivion so they can blame you for our nation’s financial ruin and use your subsequent reliance on the dole as excuse for even further cuts to the public services that provide some semblance of first-world civilization.  It’s just as bad as their positions on everything else.

Really, to anyone who claims to be too apathetic or disenchanted with the parties to vote, my response is to vote not for the meek and useless Democrats, but against Republicans, whose purely greed-based agenda that can only be described accurately as the absolute dark substance of evil incarnate, should they fully take the reins of power, will fuck you and everyone else so hard it will make your head spin and launch our pre-existing condition of an economic and environmental death spiral into overdrive.  Really, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

President Obama’s policy proposals are at least an improvement from those emanating from the Republican hive overmind, although this may be the definition of damnation with faint praise.  He and his party are essentially proposing to maintain the status quo for as long as possible, which is decidedly better than pushing to regress to 19th century policies for an interconnected world of over 7 billion people.  The non-Republican transportation bills floating around the Hill today wouldn’t completely shred a hundred years of environmental protections and would provide funding for infrastructure maintenance and add jobs instead of celebrating “firing government workers” like the leading Republican presidential candidate, while Obama has been on a bit of an energy kick lately, talking a lot about “wind, solar, biofuels and advanced batteries.”  Better than nothing?  Sure, but I can’t help but notice that not mentioned even once in any of the president’s recent speeches is the single most effective measure, far and away, that policymakers can take to reduce dependence on “foreign oil,” or any oil at all.

Anyone who bothers to take a serious look at transportation in the U.S. will readily be able to identify the root cause of why Americans feel so much “pain at the pump,” to use the tortured phrase, every time the price of oil inches upward: we drive too much.  For some reason, stating this obvious fact is anathema to anyone even in low earth orbit around the political establishment.  Challenging automobile culture is off limits, and the only meaningful way to do it, which goes by the name of “transit,” is a third rail in U.S. politics.  Maybe it’s just me and my zany green socialist inclinations again, but I think if you’re going to talk about transportation policy and oil dependence, the ideas you propose should have some bearing on the problem.

This is all because of you!

But wind and solar power, while fine ideas in themselves, are not even linked to transportation; biofuels are not scaleable, require massive subsidies and have probably already contributed to the global rise in food prices the last few years; and advanced batteries are, to be honest, still not ready for prime time and will only get you so far, both literally and figuratively; and even much more fuel-efficient vehicles still run on oil, and I have serious doubts that improvements in fuel economy can move fast enough keep up with depleting oil reserves and rising prices.  I do not expect technological revolutions in any of these areas in the near future that will suddenly make a serious difference.  A serious effort to electrify transportation infrastructure can and would.  How complicated is this, really?  There are a million excuses given as to why we can’t, shouldn’t or won’t build out electric rail systems in this country, all of them empty and all of them empirically disproven by the fact that we already did it in the first half of the 20th century!

This is the perfect opportunity to talk about something that actually will make a difference in addressing the root cause of the problem, but nobody will even mention it by name.  Someone tell me what’s going on here; what parallel universe are we living in here?  It’s like watching a baby smash its head against a brick wall!  Does anyone really think the climate for public investment is going to improve anytime soon?

Speaking of climate, is that even on anyone’s radar anymore?  Since when do we look at increased fossil fuel production as an unqualified good?  Maybe come summertime people will care again, if only for a brief moment.  The good news is that the window of time for caring grows longer and longer every year.

In any event, some will surely point out that what I have suggested is politically impossible in today’s environment; the idea of public transportation, or public anything for that matter, will be denounced as (gasp) socialism!  This may well be true, but it’s still a point worth making.  And maybe it is time to move on to other subjects now.  But I still just have this crazy feeling that won’t go away, and it tells me that just because the current officeholders and the teabag nation that elected them reside in La-La Land, that is no reason the rest of us should be forced to abandon all reason and adapt our ideas to fit more closely within their warped notion of how the world operates.


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