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Friday, May 21, 2010

Kicking the Oil Habit

If the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher -- now going into its second month -- isn't enough to get you to start thinking that maybe burning stuff for energy isn't all that high tech or safe, maybe three new reports by the National Academy of Sciences will push you over the edge. Or maybe not.

SmokestacksAs part of its most comprehensive study of climate change to date, the National Research Council today issued three reports emphasizing why the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The reports by the Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, are part of a congressionally requested suite of five studies known as America's Climate Choices.

"These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "But the nation also needs the scientific community to expand upon its understanding of why climate change is happening, and focus also on when and where the most severe impacts will occur and what we can do to respond."


"NAS panels study a problem from many angles, include the highest level of relevant expertise, and have their work carefully assessed by peer reviewers," says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "They are deservedly a premier source of influential scientific guidance."





Let's face it, we've always known that oil and coal weren't the future. When we think of stories and movies set in the future, we don't think of stuff powered by burning other stuff -- unless its Road Warrior. In our heart of hearts, we've always imagined a future that was clean. No smoke, no toxic sludge, no accompanying emphysema, asthma, and cancer. Yet we now have the ability to literally pull power out of thin air and we can't be bothered with it. We need oil, oil, oil and coal, coal, coal.

Why? Because no one owns that thin air. If you can't have a wind spill, neither can you sell it. You can sell the power generated by this wind -- and solar, for that matter -- but no one sells the fuel, which in the cases of both wind and solar power is the sun. An entire industry, huge and powerful, would simply disappear. And, since fossil fuels are a limited resource, this is going to happen eventually anyway. But until that last drop of oil, that last chunk of coal, is extracted from the earth at great expense, that industry has no intention of shutting down.

Ask yourself this; why is it taking BP so long to close off that gusher? Might it be because it is a gusher? There's an unimaginable fortune out there, pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico. It's a stream a liquid gold so massive you can easily see it from space. And it's all still there, not just under the sea bed, but in the sea itself. If BP is very careful and everyone tiptoes around them, they can get a good chunk of that fortune back, while making sure the well is still viable for future drilling. Some of that oil now killing off sea life in the Gulf of Mexico is still going to find it's way into someone's tank. It may take a little longer to do it this way, but we've got to have priorities here.

And this is the problem. We've gotten to the point where the rewards of oil outweigh our own safety. If we spill our drink, we've become such out of control alcoholics that we'll suck the rag we use to clean it up. And, like alcoholics, we won't listen to reason. Everything is fine. We can handle it. This isn't a problem.

So the oil and coal companies -- the fuel industry -- take the role of enabler. We're right, everything is fine. There is no problem. Just have another drink and forget about it. Those scientists? They don't know what they're talking about. They're just trying to get grant money.

Of course, the fuel industry makes one helluva lot more off selling fossil fuels than anyone would ever make getting us off the stuff. In the monetary rewards game, saying scientists have the most to gain is completely insane. But addiction is completely insane as well, so given a choice between a harsh truth and a comforting lie, we'll take the comforting lie every time.

"This is yet another wake-up call on the threat of global climate change," said Sen. John Kerry in a statement. "These studies clearly demonstrate the urgency for Senate action on the American Power Act."

Yeah, they do. But drunks aren't famous for their attraction to reason or fact. Sure, we woke up with our head in the toilet one morning, but it's not like we do that every morning.

Everything is fine. We can handle it. This isn't a problem.

Wisco


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