Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Did We Lose It?

Pondering opposition to Al Gore's climate and energy initiatives, Bob Herbert asks the crucial question:
When exactly was it that the U.S. became a can't-do society? It wasn't at the very beginning when 13 ragamuffin colonies went to war against the world's mightiest empire. It wasn't during World War II when Japan and Nazi Germany had to be fought simultaneously. It wasn't in the postwar period that gave us the Marshall Plan and a robust G.I. Bill and the interstate highway system and the space program and the civil rights movement and the women's movement and the greatest society the world had ever known.
I would argue that we haven't become a can't-do society - at least not in any permanent sense. Gore's goals for transforming our approach to the environment, sustainable energy, and petro-security aren't met with opposition because of low national morale. The problem is political. The scientific consensus behind global warming is fact. The economic benefits of sustainable energy and decreased oil imports are well-documented. The security argument is a familiar and correct one. But partisan politics puts blinders on all of these things, because some people just don't like Al Gore. And they will ignore science, economics, and American security interests to continue fighting political battles against him.

1 comment:

Alexander Haddad said...

It's more than just the fact the Al Gore isn't the most popular dude with conservatives. There are plenty of other people who are looking to transform energy policy in the US, including this T. Boone Pickens, a conservative Texas petroleum giant whose ad seems to air every ten minutes on nearly every national news network (maybe with the exception of Fox). "Pickens' Plan" seeks to convert electric plants to wind energy and convert cars to run on natural gas. Apart from being economically uninformed (why convert cars more than once if we can just make all energy sources run on the same thing, i.e. whatever renewable source is powering the power plants?), Pickens isn't about to put up $1 billion of his own money out of any sort of concern for the polar ice caps. It's because he's afraid of being "held hostage" to foreign oil.

Okay, so in this case the means make the ends worthwhile. Still, I think that before we can approach the issue at hand there has to be some kind of a consensus about what we aim to get out of it - because divergent expectations lead to weaker, more diluted results, and at this point, we as a nation and as a larger part of civilization can't afford anything but the purest solution.