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Friday, July 18, 2008

One Foot in the Grave

Yesterday, I wrote about a campaign of BS by the right that may rival the propaganda campaign that led us into Iraq. The goal of that campaign is offshore drilling. Almost nothing that's being said by the right has been true -- offshore drilling isn't environmentally safe, China's not already drilling off Cuba, and it won't bring down gas prices.

When I write a post, I often collect more information than I actually need, which means that some examples aren't used in the posts. Usually, these unused stories turn out to be too insane to be representative. It may be tempting to compare some antigay dumbass to Fred Phelps, for example, but it may not be apt. It's kind of like comparing any old right wing zombie to Hitler -- I guess I believe that Godwin's law should be expanded. Similarities are not equations; bad may be bad, but there are degrees of bad, just as there are degrees of BS.

I bring this up to introduce you to a particular group of phonies known as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Right Wing Watch:

A gathering led by Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, and the new group Americans for American Energy held a press conference yesterday demanding increased “American Energy” production. Their contentions were twofold: that high energy costs disproportionately harm low-income families, and that increased domestic oil drilling would solve the problem. Standing in the way: the “elitist Volvo-driving” environmentalists. Watch:

Although CORE was once a prominent civil rights group, after Niger Innis’s father, Roy, took control in 1968, he led it to the far right, honoring Karl Rove at its Martin Luther King dinner, backing extreme Bush judges, and defending oil companies. According to a Mother Jones article, “Innis has been accused by founder James Farmer and other black leaders of renting out CORE’s historic reputation to corporations like Monsanto and ExxonMobil. (CORE even mounted a counterprotest to environmentalists picketing an ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting.)”

There's a war on the poor -- by environmentalists. Really? Seems to me that enmity of the poor is a cornerstone of modern Republicanism. After all, it's been the right wing's love of deregulation and hatred of corporate accountability that's screwed the economy. No one's losing their home because some environmentalist is foreclosing on them.

-Continued after the jump-

It was Al Gore's speech on energy yesterday, along with a string of news stories I've been following, that got me thinking about the firebreathing BS vendors above. It turns out that the right wing either doesn't understand the way capitalism works or pretends they don't. We're told that addressing climate change and energy will ruin the economy. It will. In fact, it'll completely destroy it. But capitalism is as destructive as it is progressive. In moving forward, capitalism destroys old industries and markets, replacing them with new ones. It'll destroy the old economic structure while it builds a new one. The structure of the economy in the next ten years won't look anything like it does today. But, of course, that's always been true. The question isn't whether the old structure should be kept alive, but whether the new structure will be as sound. There's no reason to believe it won't be. In fact, since the current energy market relies on crap we have to go find, a new market based on renewables would likely be much more stable in the long run.

Niger Innis and Bishop Jackson aren't representing the poor, they're representing a dying market. They're lobbyists for the buggywhip industry. They're arguing against the steam engine so that sawmills with water wheels won't have to close. They're trying to sell horseshoes in a world that increasingly travels on tires.

They make the mistake that conservatism is almost doomed to make -- they believe that change is bad, unless that change is a reversal. Modern conservatives don't stand for change, unless that change is backward, to the way things used to be.

But, as I said, capitalism is destructive. It destroys old industries and markets, replacing them with new markets and new industries. It sucks for the buggywhip industry, but it's good for everyone else and inevitable regardless. In fact, not only is the world moving away from oil, it's moving away from coal. The fossil fuel industry is, somewhat appropriately, becoming a dinosaur. In fact, it's the fossil fuel industry that's waging a war on workers.

Environmental News Network:

A transition to renewable energy sources promises significant global job gains at a time when the coal industry has been hemorrhaging jobs for years, according to the latest Vital Signs Update released by the Worldwatch Institute.

The coal, oil, and natural gas industries require steadily fewer jobs as high-cost production equipment takes the place of human capital. Many hundreds of thousands of coal mining jobs have been shed in China, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and South Africa during the last two decades, sometimes in the face of expanding production. In the United States alone, coal industry employment has fallen by half in the last 20 years, despite a one-third increase in production.

"Renewables are poised to tackle our energy crisis and create millions of new jobs worldwide," according to Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner. "Meanwhile, fossil fuel jobs are increasingly becoming fossils themselves, as coal mining communities and others worry about their livelihoods."

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) agrees. In a recent study, UNEP reported that more than 148 billion dollars had been invested in renewable energy markets worldwide. The report referred to this as a "green energy gold rush."

"Just as thousands were drawn to California and the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern-day prospectors in all parts of the globe," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

"What is unfolding is nothing less than a fundamental transformation of the world's energy infrastructure."

And it couldn't come at a better time because -- speaking of a "war on the poor" -- climate change is about to screw us royally. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a study that totally undermines the right wing's insistence that change means disaster. To the contrary, not changing means disaster.

"Climate change poses real risk to human health and the human systems that support our way of life in the United States," according to the EPA's Joel Scheraga. The report warns of "a likely increase in food and water-borne germs as the world warms and habitat ranges expand for some disease-causing organisms." This will increase the hardships of which group?

That's right, the poor.

"Many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured," Scheraga warns. Environmentalism isn't waging a war on the poor, it's waging a war on the poor's behalf. Meanwhile, capitalism is doing what it always does -- moving forward and leaving destroyed, obsolete industries and markets in its wake.

What the oil and coal industries -- along with their shills in that video -- want isn't capitalism at all. What they want is protection from capitalism. What they want is to use the power of government to extend the life of their markets artificially. There's no logical reason why they should get it.

"I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources within 10 years," Gore said yesterday.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, major Bush-backer T. Boone Pickens agrees -- the old generation ways are going the way of the hoop skirt and mustache wax. "For a number of years I’ve watched the wind turbines develop -- and I feel like it’s time for it," Pickens told NPR last month. "I think that oil has peaked at 85 million barrels in the world. We’ve got to develop other forms of energy -- wind, I think solar will be next, and I hope I’m still around to be in the solar deal."

If you're a little lost on the connection between oil and energy production, you could be excused. After all, we don't really burn oil to create electricity. But the future will likely belong to the battery, not the gas tank, and that energy has to come from someplace. Replacing oil with batteries without addressing coal is just switching from oil to coal to get around. Environmentally speaking, this is almost no change.

There is no war on the poor waged by environmentalists. That claim is ridiculous on its face. Chaining people to this creaky and dying market is much more harmful. But, of course, truth isn't the object here. The object is to create an artifical market for a dying industry. These transparent apologist for Exxon represent the last gasp of the buggy whip vendors.


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SpaceGhoti said...

I have always wondered at the insistence of the media (and even liberals; Glenn Greenwald does it to my surprise) of labeling conservatives as radicals. A radical is someone who wants drastic change to something new, and as you point out here conservatives never want something new. They want to return to something old. Conservatives who want drastic change to something old are called reactionaries.

There's never been anything new about the change that conservatives in power have been trying to effect other than its packaging. They want to return us to old values of yore when monarchs ruled by fiat, women were second-hand citizens and the poor were properly kept in ghettos where the sight (and smell) of them wouldn't offend the delicate sensibilities of the elite.

Wisco said...

I mostly agree. In fact, my only point of disagreement is semantic. "Radical" is usually used to denote extremism, being outside the mainstream. That's why "radical change" isn't redundant.

However, "reactionary" is more accurate in this case.

Anonymous said...

spaceghoti, I think when we call people "conservative" these days we mostly mean socially conservative. Usually what Greenwald denounces as "radical" is efforts by both parties to undermine the bedrock principles upon which our government is founded, as set down by the Constitution. While there are certainly passages of that document that are open for debate, usually the issues Greenwald discusses are not very nit-picky like that.