I had a great debate with a friend of mine this week over about the points raised in a conservative pollster’s report – The Language of A Clean Energy Economy for The News Corporation – FOX. The main point I got from the report was this:
60% of Americans agree with this statement: “a future where energy in the U.S. is abundant, affordable, and clean. Imagine feeling secure knowing that our nation can produce its own energy instead of relying on Middle Eastern oil. Imagine an economic boom that creates high-paying, permanent American jobs. We don’t have to imagine it – clean, safe energy already exists. All we have to do is use it. So let’s start. Now.
Sounds great! No wonder people agree with this. Who could be against it?
The only problem is, it isn’t true. And it’s so not true that it can be debunked very easily. Let’s look at the massively conflicting messages that the statement presents:
Independent: While not specifically mentioned in the paragraph above, the implication is huge: Get off foreign oil, get energy independent. But we have to be honest – getting off foreign oil means only one thing: an end to the mobility and current foodways that we now have. Neither electric (from coal, nuclear, or renewable) or natural gas will ever be scaled to replace oil as a mobility fuel to the extent we use it now– the idea of substitution doesn’t work. And remember, we can never drill ourselves to oil independence domestically in the US. It’s not as if there is a choice between using our own oil or importing foreign oil. We peaked 40 years ago. If we want our current lifestyle to continue, we MUST import oil.
Thus, the idea that we can be energy independent really means….”if we’re willing to change damn near everything about our lives” – I am firm: our current way of life is not possible with any combination of “home grown” carbon and renewable energy. There’s a reason that 4% of the world’s population uses 25+% of the world’s oil. And we import over 2/3s of what we use. As our friend W once said, “we are addicted to oil”
Clean: And then there’s the whole “cleanwashing” thing going on….the only clean is renewable (and even making solar panels and windmills requires a lot of carbon right now…) Coal is not, and never will be, “clean” – neither is nuclear – natural gas is only slightly better, but still carbon. So now if we truly want clean, we have to even forgo more energy use than just giving up foreign oil. Clean = no coal, no nuclear, no gas.
Abundant: this one is easy – if we get off foreign oil, and we go clean, then we don’t have abundant, it’s that simple. (now it could mean abundant in the sense of sunlight is forever, then yes….we’ll have some amount of energy forever….but absolutely nothing like all that great carbon we’ve been using for so long…). Actually, thinking of carbon as abudant is very misleading anyway. All carbon is finite. We’ve peaked globally in oil, probably peaked in coal in the US, and natural gas will peak in this century.
Affordable: Nothing will ever be as affordable as pumping liquid or digging rocks from the ground and then setting it all on fire. That’s precisely why we use carbon – it’s cheap! Anything else will cost more to get less. If that wasn’t so, we’d already be doing it.
The reality of the statement that everyone agrees with? “We can have less mobility, less choice in food and consumer goods, an enormous reduction in the amount of energy available to us, and get all this at a higher cost. “
Reality is a bitch. But we’ve grown used to fantasy in this country.
So, a wide majority of people really agree to a statement that isn’t true. The result will be a let-down of monumental proportions when the truth hits home. Or maybe not. Remember this is the talk that will be perpetuated by FOX News – where truth never has to hit home. And what we’ll get is politicians who will continue spouting this fantasy.
That isn’t reason to surrender however. The whole “all men are created equal” thing wasn’t really accepted (by most) until people with courage made it so….
The anit-FOX, honest message is this: if we do it right, we can change our lifestyles to become locally focused, with a very low energy demand – in doing so, we can rebuild local economies, help the earth, improve our health, and enjoy more satisfying lives – all the while our nation becomes truly independent and safe.