Of course I knew it would be too much to expect President Obama, during the second Presidential debate on Tuesday, to actually break the great taboo of contemporary American politics and mention—Shhhh—climate change.
But I didn’t expect him to come out pandering so shamelessly to Big Fossil Fuel.
Yes, he managed to create a mild distinction between his position and his opponent’s.
Obama, on the other hand, is 100% for exploiting fossil fuels as fast as we can possibly get them up out of the ground.
And oh yeah, he’s not against throwing a little money at solar, wind and biofuels (let’s not even talk about how destructive existing biofuels like ethanol have actually been on multiple levels—let’s give the guy a break).
While Romney just wants to hammer home the assertion that his Administration will bring us lower gas prices (no doubt as a result of all the frantic drilling he intends to support), Obama is interested in encouraging conservation by raising fuel economy standards, an idea right out of the late 1970s if I ever heard one.
A 21st century idea would be to get rid of oil subsidies and insist that the price of gas and oil reflect the true costs of its production and consumption, which are actually way higher than whatever the current price of a gallon of crude might be.
The nadir of the whole energy discussion of the second Presidential debate came when, in response to a little goading from Romney, Obama said he was “all for pipelines.”
In nearly the same breath, he proudly proclaimed that his Administration has supported lots of oil and gas drilling on public lands—how many leases, and what percentage of increase or decrease they may represent from the Bush years, may be a bit fuzzy, but the gist is clear: both Romney and Obama are all for opening up our public lands to drilling, in the name of energy independence from foreign fuel sources.
Oh Lord. The truth is that our dependence on so-called foreign fuel suppliers (who are mostly multinational corporations anyway) is the least of our worries.
The one thing we most need to be focusing on is the one thing that no one wants to deal with at all.
The effect of global heating, caused by the ever-escalating burning of fossil fuels worldwide.
And instead of working soberly and swiftly to turn the climate juggernaut around, our politicians are acting like easy-going traffic cops, just waving those bulldozers and oil rigs right on through.
Take the Keystone pipeline, which both Romney and Obama were unabashed in supporting.
Did you know that right at this moment, there are dedicated Earth defenders sitting in trees in Texas, trying to block the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline?
Well, you probably realize that the bitumen that pipeline is designed to carry is so thick and sludgy that it has to be mixed with toxic chemicals in order to make it flow.
You’ve probably heard about the damage that could be caused by a spill from a pipeline like this, if the chemicals leaked into the major aquifers that are along the way.
This on top of the destruction of the forests that is already happening on a vast scale to get those “tar sands” out.
On top of the chemical contamination of our aquifers from hydro-fracking for gas.
On top of mountain-top removal and strip-mining for coal.
On top of the whole lousy cap and trade system, by which dirty Northern-hemisphere commercial polluters can continue to pollute as long as they buy credits in Southern hemisphere forest preserves—except that what’s actually been happening is that first they buy the preserves, then they log them, then they replant with palm oil trees, heavily sprayed with pesticide, herbicide and fungicide to keep the rainforest from returning, and then they proudly collect their credits for having maintained some semblance of soylent green!
All this is the reality behind the puffery that passed for politics at the debate last night.
What is our national energy policy? For both the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s drill faster! Drill harder! Drill everywhere possible!
President Obama chided his opponent at one point for thinking only of short-term prospects.
“We have to think about what’s coming in 10, 20, 30 years,” he said, the implication being that we shouldn’t entirely neglect the prospects of wind and solar energy.
But the truth is that if we continue drilling at the rate both candidates support, there won’t be a stable environment left to build an alternative energy future for our grandchildren and future generations.
They won’t be building wind turbines and solar panels in 2050, they’ll be building underground shelters and modern-day Noah’s arks.
Still, yes, I am going to go grumbling to the polls on Nov. 6 and pull the lever for Obama. There is no question in my mind that he is the better man.
I understand that right now he is trying to walk the centrist line and please as many American constituencies as he can.
But once re-elected, he must be pushed to take a stronger stand on environmental policy, including energy policy.
If that means that more of us have to take to the trees in protest, well, so be it. I always did love climbing trees!