Sunday, May 15, 2011

You’ll never touch these things

Buds in Maine. I can't wait to get back and see if they bloomed!

I’ve written about global warming before, even going so far as to say that it’ll be viewed historically as a conscious choice of the rich white man to make his weather better and himself richer at the expense of the poor multitudes at the lower latitudes. Nonetheless, I feel a thesis coming on, after listening to a piece on NPR today about government subsidies for the oil companies. Part of me wants to quote the thing wholesale, because it was so disgusting. I can’t do it justice. (I found it: listen here at your own peril.)

I’ll try, but I may end up falling into diatribe. You have been duly warned.

Two brave and politically-minded Democrats proposed a bill to eliminate the subsidies that global oil gets from the American government. It’s around $2 billion, so, really, nothing. At least not in comparison to the trillions of dollars our government is trying to cut. Democrats want to pay lip service to the concept of deficit reduction, sure, but I hope that maybe some of them believe that the American taxpayer shouldn’t be adding to the profits of the most profitable companies ever in the history of the universe.

So what do Republicans (and all oil-state Democrats) say? It’ll raise gas prices! It’ll cost American jobs! It'll force America to be more dependent on foreign companies! What’s the real solution? Drill, baby. Drill.

Here’s Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader:
“By taxing American energy production, they’re also outsourcing American jobs. So let me get this straight--higher gas prices, fewer American jobs, and more dependence on foreign competitors at the expense of American energy? That’s their plan? No thank you.”

I can’t believe that we haven’t accepted yet that fossil fuels are dying. And killing us, both. I flash back 100 years, and wonder—what happened to those forward-minded politicians who proposed ending subsidies for the buggy-whip industry? I’m sure there was public outcry: what about all those poor workers in the buggy-whip factories? What about the American horse? What about carriage drivers?

Even though I’m a devout Scandinavian socialist (most days), I believe whole-heartedly in American entrepreneurship and competition. If fossil fuels were authentically priced, both in true production and environmental costs, then alternative energies would have a real shot. Wind and solar could be competitive. But it’s not until we eliminate the buggy-whip mentality, this foolish prejudice in favor of outdated products, that they’ll be able to compete on a level playing field.

Why don't we build houses with roofs made of solar panels? Why doesn’t every suburban residence have its own windmill? Why have fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles stayed more or less level for the last fifty years? Because of the oil and coal lobbies. Because of corrupt politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, whose campaigns are funded by those industries, and who care more about their reelection than our country’s future.

But mainly because of YOU. Because you (and me) can’t be bothered to pick up a pen and write a letter to our congresspeople. Because we can’t be bothered to reduce our consumption.

What did the piece conclude? The bill is not going to pass. Even 51 unified Democrats in the Senate can’t get the bill past a filibuster. The American people are going to continue to put $2 billion a year in Exxon-Mobil’s pocket. As if we don't pay enough for gas already.

What’s the only thing that’s going to change our future? Our own choices. We have to choose to get involved in political life. We have to make better choices about our carbon consumption.

I have been consciously choosing against high consumption for seven years now, but I'm still getting in a car tomorrow and driving 1000 miles with gas at $4 a gallon. I flew in a plane last month. I don’t have much money, but I still believe should pay more for those things than I do. They should cost more for all of our sakes.

Why did the buggy whip factories shut down? Because we didn’t need them any more. It's not until alternative energy is given a fair chance that we really will stop needing oil.

(On a less political note, how do you like my blog redesign? If you hate it, give constructive criticism in the comments. If you love it, say glowing things! It costs you no fossil fuels. Except for the electricity for your computer. Never mind.)


wfrenn said...

Dear Pilgrim,
Your new blog design accurately portrays your great loves of the sea, land for farming, the beauty of a Maine winter where someone special lives, and the beauty of sunset over water and land. In some ways it represents the four seasons, except that spring is not apparent. I like it better than the previous one, a part of which you kept. I like the Pilgrim part, too, as it reflects your quest accurately, that and the setting forth inferred in "Casting Off." Well done!

The Capt'n

Melissa said...

Thank you so much! I struggled to find a way I could keep my connection to the boat, but also express (in pictures) how my life has broadened and expanded since the Secret adventure. I also couldn't find spring necessarily. The second photo is spring, but spring in the California desert, so not apparent.

Clearly, in my ideal world, I'd live in summer three-quarters of the year. Which now I can do on the blog!

Ellen D. said...

I love the design. Very much.

Bravo on your comments too. Let us pay the actual price and maybe we'll reduce our consumption and find other ways! Let the system evolve.

Melissa said...

Thanks, Ellen, for both comments. It's hard for any of us to pay the actual price, but all we can do is keep trying.