Energy Policy Joke Intensifies
How may the new executive branch affect energy, after last years oil price spike and this years western state utility crisis? Will Bushs lip service to concern over global warming generate some accountability from the grassroots?
It is electric power price increases in the U.S. which entirely accounted for the all-important consumer demand boost in December, heralding a recession according to the BBC. Natural gas has become the savior of progressive leaders who see oil and coal as dirty. But this has helped tighten supply of gas, which will not outlast oil reserves by much. Rising prices can conserve supply. But instead of more profit for suppliers and utilities, taxes could supply revenue for sustainable energy solutionsa few million bike carts?
With conservation so far overdue, and the nation way out on an already cracking limb, the Bush II administration reneged on looking at carbon emission controls as an historically significant measure to burn up less of the atmosphere. Such a move would have conserved natural gas and other fossil fuels. The Clinton regime didnt do any better: its ballyhooed carbon tax was just on gasoline, less than what Reagan easily put through in 1981. When Clinton-Gore came into power, the Sierra Clubs DC lobbyist on energy said that the good guys were here and that the pedal would be put to the metal. Didnt happen, but this magazine had foreseen it.
Similarly, Bush/Cheney are not much different from the previous fossil burners. One thing has changed, a bit more honesty in destructive energy policy: try to drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Amazingly, the public opposes this Alaska exploitation, at a rate of 53%. The Bush administration has placed this energy scheme in its budget to supposedly allow renewable energy development elsewhere in the U.S. economy. This has been decried as cynical, but it can serve as a commitment (unintended or not) to getting the nation on a renewable energy partial diet. More progress most didnt expect: The environment is acknowledged as sick when the new EPA administrator defended and kept the recent Clinton-era diesel pollution regulations.
A president Gore might have done no better (based on his VP record) so far, and this might be said years from now.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media mouth the industry/government line on energy: make more; forget real conservation! For example, in an Associate Press story on the Alaska drilling issue and west coast power, the nations energy policy was disclosed as putting the environment last: The administration has signaled it would be willing to roll back pollution requirements at the states power plants and find other ways to help the state. (emphasis added) (February 2, 2001).
The near futility of environmentalists poorly funded lobbying (usually for just minor reforms and technofix business incentive) makes clear the need for effective grassroots organizing and successfully utilizing alternative media. To break through to the publics consciousness, we dont await an audience with Oz. You can do your part by activating yourself in your home, neighborhood and community, if you havent done so. For some ideas on changing the world starting very locally, see Sustainable Energy Institutes Pledge for Climate Protection (page 9). It is in postcard form in quantity (ask us for a stack; include a few bucks), and online at www.culturechange.org. The Earth Island Journal covered it in their Winter 2001 edition, along with our letter on Green Cars.
It is nevertheless good to monitor the state/industry goings on in energy, so that leaders feet can be held to the fire on occasionat least in letters to the editor of influential newspapers:
From the New York Times, Feb. 3, 2001:
The California conservation plan, to reduce demand by as much as 20 percent, includes a requirement that retail businesses curb their outdoor lighting and take other measures to cut power consumption. Legislation to help bring this about is happening in Sacramento, and requires creative input which the Sustainable Energy Institute is providing. It is a one billion dollar spending opportunity (at press time).
Western governors wanted to put a lid on wholesale natural gas prices to keep down utility costs. This would cut into profits of Bush Juniors energy industry contributors. Anyway, there was no consensus on this, as caps would also reduce incentives to conserve electricity.
Governors agreed on short-term and long- range strategies, including increasing conservation, in part by exploring ways of billing consumers that encourage them to use less electricity during peak demand hours. Rolling blackouts, which have been hitting California, are likely to be imposed this summer thanks to insufficient conservation. Stupidly, the governors simultaneously pledged to work on speeding the construction of new power plants. But Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, pushed conservation efforts, warning against simply trying to dig, drill and burn a way out of a crisis.
Leaders of tribes expressed concern that electricity problems could unravel laws and programs protecting salmon and other fish that must navigate the network of federal hydroelectric dams in the Northwest.
Salmon did not create the current crisis, and the Columbia River cannot continue to be run on their backs, said Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Who knows. One things for sure: consumption of polluting resources
marches right along, no matter how many people in an overpopulated nation
and world feel free. A mass awakening awaits, but soon enough to save endangered
species such as humans?
Step out of line/The Man come/And take you away - Buffalo Springfield
You dont have to be protesting to feel that quaint experience, of too mild interest to average stamped out Americans: getting the shaft from The System.
You could be out and about, exercising your preferences in deciding what to do and where to go. You know how to care for yourself without hurting anybody. But unexpectedly, because private property and government have everything nailed down and have defined all the dos and donts, you bump up against a most disturbing and unfair violation of your freedom. You wonder whom society is protecting and benefiting, and when its not you, you quickly realize its a system of freedom=wealth. A modicum of peace is achieved by never stepping out of line, such as being a dutiful consumer and taking The Program such as public school, etc.
Two friends of ours just had different but common experiences. One camped out by a lonely forest road, and was fined $215 for illegal camping. She just thought shed sleep, considering the late hour. What was the crime? In the eyes of the State, the answer is like, somebody got out of line. Everyone should be locked in behind their own front doors or behind prison gates.
The other friend just paid Humboldt County over a hundred dollars for two infractions. First, he went though a stop sign on his bike. At the time it was safe, although some people do pedal through intersections unsafely. Significantlyto sensitive peoplehe was not driving a deadly machine. The real crime should be possessing one of those, or at least driving one solo so as to waste maximum fuel and fry the planet. He is not a rich man; we can picture rich people having no problem with this traffic law our friend violated. They drive cars because they can waste that much money in the first place. Traffic laws may have a theoretical fairness for all kinds of vehicles, bicyclists included. But who dominates and who is dominated? Bicyclists are oppressed by traffic laws that are harshly applied and geared toward favoring dangerous motor vehicles. Their owners control society.
His other crime was dumpster diving. He needs things he cannot afford, but, the objects and materials retrieved should not be wasted by sending themvia petroleum-powered garbage trucksto the dump. The police and security guards are protecting what? In this case the garbage company owns the stuff in the dumpster supposedly, so a resourceful and non-consumeristic person like our friend was stealing.
We could mention political oppression relating to street demonstrations, such as at the IMF meeting in D.C. in April. People had their rights and bodies stomped on by the authorities intent on not letting a successful Seattle-like uprising occur. In such cases police, jailers and courts tend to go out of their way to flaunt their immunity from laws and human rights. Demonstrations participants include people who got radicalized by the Systems hostility.
But for those of us not personally bothering to see our nation in action, while we imagine we are safe because we stay on the job or in front of the TV, we are by now less full of illusions about the system of private property and law enforcement. Masses of people cut off from the dwindling natural world are affected by their (our) loss. Who hasnt pictured him/herself homeless? When one does, it is on polluted streetsnot in natural surroundings. Prior to civilizations oppression, the whole human race was happily relatively homeless. People are becoming less content, even if they dont know history of the State and the real basis of todays economic and political system. Are we rats in a cage?
This discontent contributes toward much of the random violence committed by people who unexpectedly snap. A person is in a car for some kind of control or sense of power, and the fancier the car the more an illusion of freedom is felt. But the rich car owner can fly into road rage, as this Spring 2001 Auto-Free Times recounts in Susan Vaughans article. However, its more than overpopulation of cars, people, and roads driving us nuts: The dominant cultures hallmark since its genesis 10,000 years ago is to lock up the food, causing people to work virtually as slaves. Does money thus obtained make us free? Does it spare any of us from oppression? If we think about it, we realize that no one is free if someone else is not.
This magazine tries to point out the basic insoluble features of an unworkable system. We promote sustainable alternatives such as Pedal Power Produce and Sail Transport Network. But when Its all been fenced or paved (Depavers 408), it does little good to just vote or preach patience. Freedom cant be given unto you, points out The Government Song, an unreleased tune by the Depavers. Songs of the neotribal movement reflect an undercurrent of peoples desire to come together and live in peace and freedom. Clinton, Gore, Bush, Gates et al say we must compete, but cooperation is our species only successful way.
People may soon rise up and reject the outrageous outside control of their daily movement, in favor of a more cooperative, local-based and self-governing system. Two common but confusing names for such a system are Anarchy and Wise Use/Free Market. The first has a respectable aspect but poor image, and the latter is little more than narrow private-property advocacy. Lack of forceful social control scares people including many liberals who would prefer unconventional people to disappear or stay in line. Another view of insufficient control is about strong government for dealing with non-recycling mega-consumers who pollute with a strident attitude. The corporate state wants us all to fear change and let the established order reign forever, even though it cannot due to its undermining itself along with the ecological life support system.
The Local Alternative
To check further into the reasons for our civilizations growing confusion and why it is destroying itself, as it snuffs out life everywhere on the planet, we recommend books by Daniel Quinn, particularly My Ishmael. Youll feel better if you read it, even if you have just gotten the runaround by police or the Law. If you are a victim of cars, such as being hit by one, or having swallowed some gasoline in a siphoning job, you may not feel much better until you rejoin the universal community.
Meanwhile, you can spread the word that people must get together and take action: taking over their neighborhoods together to grow food organically, cook and eat together, educate the children at home or right in the neighborhood, depave, restore forests and wetlands, unplug TVs, go off the grid, junk the cars, and buy only local products (when bartering doesnt suffice).
These steps toward sustainability ought to be arrived at proactively, but they may have to wait for economic crash, before widespread adoption is attempted. It may be too late then, if society cant hold together enough to watch over its 240,000 years of nuke garbage, or if the greenhouse effect runs out of control. But today we can still resist the absurdity and dysfunctionality of a System that cannot even provide clean water drinkable without a filter you must buy.
It would be nice to assume we will have the food and clean water we need to survive and rebuild society. But we are so energy dependent that cheap petroleums disappearancein our lifetimewill catch our overpopulation unprepared, with its pants down, as it were, to sustain its numbers. Our research and this organizations Advisers such as Virginia Abernethy tell us the degraded land is not supportive enough for hundreds of millions of people on any one continent even if they were peaceful vegans.
Dr. Abernethy has also educated us on the effects of todays high Congress-approved U.S. immigration levels: more of the most energy-wasting consumers in the world. Two-thirds of U.S. population growth is now from new arrivals and their offspring.
Thank you for doing all you can do to bring about a new sustainable culture that can outlive everything that the dying one has thrown at us all.