Monday, November 5, 2012

Drill, Baby, Drill

My conservative friends will be happy to learn that I don't consider the nation's environmental issues, generally speaking, to be a partisan problem. Conserving the environment is on all of us, myself included. We can all do better. If you drive an SUV, it's on you. If you use K-cups, it's on you. If you use a plastic spoon just once to stir a cup of tea and then throw it away, it's on you, too. If you buy bottled drinks, leave lights on when no one is in the room, throw away food that you allowed to go bad in your refrigerator, it's on you too. If you don't recycle, you need to take a closer look at yourself. Waste has taken over by showing up to the party dressed up as convenience. People in the 20th century have become lazy and complacent in trading the future of the planet for convenience. Again, I'm tagging myself here too. I love my Keurig.

But in today's essay, when I connect the GOP agenda to the the sickening rape and pillaging of the planet that we are supposed to be sharing and caring for, it is specifically with regard to the dogma of fuel consumption. Oil and gas. Let's focus on just that, for the moment.

First, let's talk about SUVs and then we'll get back to the GOP.

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, and other light trucks now constitute half the new passenger vehicles purchased each year. Yet they inflict far greater damage to our environment than cars: 47 percent more smog-forming pollution and 43 percent more global-warming gases. Automakers have taken advantage of a loophole in federal air-quality and fuel-economy requirements that was originally created because of the heavier demands on light trucks. The loopholes for SUVs and minivans has caused:
  • 1.8 million additional tons per year of smog-forming pollutants
  • 237 million additional tons per year of global-warming pollution
  • 18.4 billion additional gallons per year of gasoline use
What I want to know is why on God's green (for now) earth you insist that you "need" that truck? Where are you going in that thing? Off-road to rescue stranded people? No? You're going to buy a coffee at Starbucks. Why the hell did you get such a huge car? Most of the reasons you are about to list are bullshit. In reality, you were convinced that you needed it by the people who sell the damn things. I remember seeing a commercial for an SUV in the 90s, some peppy piece of fluff aimed at the thoughtless consumer, as evidenced by one of this ad's selling points, one line that was quipped by the ad agency's idea of an ordinary American mom. This was the quip, the entire raison d'etre, according to the auto manufacturer:

"I sit up higher!" 

My boyfriend-at-the-time mimicked that line, aptly aping the shrill burble of the actress, and he did this every single time we were on the road in our ordinary fuel-efficient respectable car and we couldn't see a damn thing from our short stature because the roadway was all blocked up with gigantic-ass SUVs. Yes, yes you do, you do in fact sit up higher in your way-too-big car. Brilliant. Now what? Because everyone else in your ridiculous demographic also sits up higher, so you're all at the same height anyway. And now anyone who isn't driving a gas guzzling, road-hogging example of American gluttonous "me first" excess gets your headlights right in our faces. You need to sit up higher because you can't see over your own ego. You don't need that truck!

Now, before continuing, it might be useful to proactively quell the "I don't believe it" crowd and silent the "you don't know what you're talking about" peanut gallery. I do know what I'm talking about, as during my entire 20s and 30s I was a an active flag-waver for environmental concerns, and for my knowledge of this subject matter I can thank the "boyfriend-at-the-time" I mentioned above. From the day I met him in high school he knew that he would pursue a career in the renewable energy sector, and has done so, following up a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering with a Masters and a doctorate in Energy Engineering. With me by his side the whole way, he became an expert in advanced control systems, neural networks, system integration, heat transfer and power systems. I lived it; it was a topic constantly in discussion. I was familiar enough with the subject matter to edit his brilliant papers, and I came up with the name for the patent he holds for a Distributed Energy Neural Network Integration System. He's a Mensa member, sits on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has founded several R&D companies to innovate and commercialize energy and environmental technologies. If he doesn't know what he's talking about, nobody does, and if I get anything incorrect, he'll pipe up (we're still friends).

The problem comes back to what it always comes back to: money, and those who seek to get their hands on as much of it as possible, at the expense of everything and everyone.

Everyone knows that the federal government sets air quality and fuel economy requirements. President Carter, a very "green" president, set up the Clean Air Act along with a dozen other initiatives to save the planet's precious natural resources. He was a splendid environmental President. If only the Carter policies had been expanded and enhanced in the years following his presidency! But then Reagan took office, with his sad, sick points of view that heralded eight very dangerous years that let corporate profit reign. I was ten or eleven years old when Reagan campaigned on a platform of unraveling the previous administration's progress towards a cleaner earth. I remember Reagan asking "how many trees do we even need?" And I remember him saying that "eighty percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees."(New York Times, 1984)

One of the fallouts of this man's twisted ideas? A loophole exploited in President Carter's Clean Air standards. Those standards were written for passenger vehicles. Cars. Trucks had different rules for emissions and fuel economy. So what did they do? They tweaked the definition of "light truck" just enough to make SUVs count in that category instead, therefore instantly exempting SUVs from the same standards as cars. It's only one of the ways the GOP legislative machinery has served those who don't care about anything else but profit. In the Clinton administration, the perpetual GOP mockery of Al Gore's environmental agenda is well-documented in the history books, considered by most conservative politicians as nothing but liberal quackery. Under George W. Bush the Natural Resources Defense Council was on high alert, seeking to educate the public on what they called W's "dirty legacy." According to the NRDC, the Bush administration's environmental actions between 2001 and 2008 consisted primary of "dismantling safeguards, ignoring climate concerns, marginalizing sound science and catering to industries that endangered Americans' health and natural heritage."

"Catering to industries" at the risk of everything else is a crime. A crime. Like any other crime, the shortest path to finding the criminal is to follow the money. What does it mean to control emissions? It means regulating hydrocarbons. There's a reason your liberal friends are always up in arms over the gross misconduct of the Koch brothers, a gargantuan conglomeration with a combined wealth of $50 billion.

How did they make most of their money? Hydrocarbons. Look it up.

Of course they deny the existence of global warming.

Of course they oppose any legislation that would regulate carbon, that would cut into their profits.

Of course they have been feverishly shoveling millions into this year's elections. They, and other profit-hungry corporations, need Romney to keep shoveling billions of dollars in subsidies into the pockets of Big Oil executives. They need Romney to do what McCain and Palin vowed they'd do and "drill, baby, drill!" into our precious protected nature reserves. They need Romney to abolish the federal protections on land established by Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. They need Romney's radical plan that essentially pushes an agenda saying that the faster we can drill and frack, with the least regulatory oversight, is only way to move our nation forward.

Obama can do better, believe me I die a little inside every time he says the words "clean coal." There is no such thing, Barack! Get off it!

But while Obama can and will do better, Mitt Romney has plans to do much, much worse.