In his State of the Union Address yesterday, President Obama spoke about climate change and energy. My response to the President’s call for action follows, it was written nine years ago. Below, first Obama then MG,jr.
[Comments on Climate Change and Energy, from: President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address as delivered on 12 February 2013 (the 204th birthday of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln)].
(OBAMA): Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. (APPLAUSE)
We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before, and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen. But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. (APPLAUSE) Now… (APPLAUSE)
Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late. (APPLAUSE)
Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct… (APPLAUSE)
I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. (APPLAUSE)
That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.
In fact, much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.
If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. (APPLAUSE)
We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire, a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self- healing power grids.
The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district; I’ve seen all those ribbon- cuttings. (LAUGHTER)
So, tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (APPLAUSE)
And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. (APPLAUSE)
Let’s prove there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.
[from: Thirsty Invaders, Chasing Heat, 19 July 2004]
A Green National Energetics
What follows is my own first draft of a program to carry the United States through a transition to a post-petroleum world. Such a plan is essential, regardless of the degree of climate change we actually experience, because oil depletion is a certainty. Any serious public effort to devise a “national energetics” plan would naturally continue as an effort to devise a Green response to climate change. The many failings and gaps of my program will become evident to those who put any thought to it. This is good, we need many people thinking of the many ways we can help the transition to occur in a socially responsible way. Walter Cronkite states the fundamental point very clearly: “Make Global Warming An Issue.”
What kind of program would transform our society to best confront the compound challenge presented by an aging population, world oil depletion, and possible abrupt climate change, simultaneously?
Consider the following ideas, to spark discussion.
1. Tax gasoline and volumetric capacity (cc., cubic in.) of internal combustion engines.
2. Tax CO2 emissions. Sign the Kyoto Protocols — as a start — and move to regulate industry further on CO2 emission, as well as other pollutants and greenhouse gases.
3. Tax industries to fund the costs of removing and reversing the types of pollution they emit (don’t bother asking them to clean up, just have them pay — in advance — for being messy).
4. Regulate prices of many energy commodities (so the taxes on polluter slobs cannot be passed on).
5. Regulate and re-regulate the power industry and utilities. These are public functions, and public interest supersedes investor greed. Nationalization of this sector would be ideal (as with health care). My life is more important than your money.
6. Provide public funding for new research into alternative power schemes for public mass transportation in particular, and provide incentives for privately financed research as well. Keep the results of publicly funded research in the public domain — a general principle. One example of new thinking on transportation: expand rail (electric) and intra-urban light rail (trolleys) as regional networks, nationally. It is true that combustion at power plants fuels such networks, but these plants can be sited appropriately, and designed to capture and de-tox the effluents, so that pollution is dealt with at the source, and the source is secure and well-controlled. Also, large combustion-to-electricity plants (usually coal-fired) can be designed to take advantage of economy-of-scale (efficiency). Yes, also research Green personal transport (e.g., electric and fuel cell cars).
7. Ensure the wide use of solar photo-voltaic and solar water-heating for residential and municipal facilities; probably amplified with gas-heating for winter/dark conditions. Revise building codes and zoning regulations to require some Green self-generation of energy, and self-recycling of materials, for new structures. Push for energy self-sufficient, self-recycling architecture.
8. Employ wind generation where practical; this is a localized resource.
9. Convert agriculture to non-chemical (and non-petroleum!) use; and farm in smaller multi-crop units instead of massive single crop agribusiness layouts (which are easy prey to pests and major freezes, demand the use of pesticides, and who wants food monopolized?). The need is to reduce the dependence of food production on petroleum, and to enhance the natural robustness of the varieties grown.
10. Move away from such an emphasis on beef production. Too much grain is used for fattening beef. Tax cholesterol.
11. Move away from agricultural subsidies, especially where they keep supporting chemical farming. Too much grain is being produced for wasteful purposes: beef fattening and tax-dollar wasting gasohol.
12. Clearly, major conservation of gasoline, petroleum, water, and forests (for CO2 reprocessing) is essential.
13. Build mass transit to European and Japanese standards (speed, comfort, safety, modernity, extensiveness, reliability).
14. Everything on this list means applying public resources (taxes) to public benefit, instead of to wasteful corporate subsidies (as with nuclear power), which are private profit without social benefit. A fair, uniform-treatment, loophole-free tax structure would be most helpful for national financing (e.g., repeal Proposition 13 in California).
15. Reduce the US military to a defensive force, eliminating many high-petroleum use operations and pieces of equipment. This is combined with reining in our military from many far-flung posts around the world and ending the practice of ceaseless interventions.
16. Apply modern technology (e.g., plasma-torch pyrolysis) to recycle the nation’s garbage and to reprocess existing garbage and toxic dump sites. Power is generated from this (buried hydrocarbons); with sufficiently large plants, the garbage can be reprocessed to benign and elemental forms, and net electricity generated: power from garbage. Plants might be $1B investments each, so this must be a public investment. “Private” investors are too small-minded to do it right, and wait long enough to get paid off (maybe a decade or more, like the Golden Gate Bridge).
17. Packaging should be regulated as a pre-pollutant and oil consumption. This will ensure a significant improvement from retail plastic waste production to enviro-packaging.
18. Cars and durable goods generally should be taxed/regulated for end-of-use disassembly/recycling. The Norwegian “Think” electric car is built this way now, it is 100% recycle-able as-built (what I have called “self-recycling”).
19. The entire “move” to alternative energy, as a complex of technological projects, economic and tax policies, and shift in social patterns must become a national priority integrating the political and economic life of the country — the move from oil to the society powered by “new” sources. This cannot be done in a chaotic, or ad hoc “free market” way. The Japanese MITI model is useful here. This is a PLANNED ECONOMY. It would be based on domestic rather than imperialistic means. A major part of this move would be the creating of new jobs, occupations and careers for the American public; jobs including “technical” ones for the majority of educational levels (at/below high school).
20. Finally, we need clean government to be able to coordinate a national move from an oil-based economy. Ideally, we would convert our government to a clean one first (no corporate money in politics; hell, no corporations at all anymore), and then we could use it to convert the country into the post-21st century society it is to become. Rather than fight or thwart the rest of the world’s energy drive, we have to control and then transform our own.
21. Alternatively, we could drive off the cliff of myopic greed (the status quo), crash into the end-of-oil, have the easily expected civil wars, foreign wars, and social collapse, then wait for the survivors to possibly create a clean government (unless they proceed with the status quo, which by then will be of the war-lord/slavery variety). This late 21st century government could try to rebuild a republic with some degree of social equity and technological advancement. It seems such a shame to have to go through the Armageddon/revolution/collapse first, but probably inevitable if we remain wedded to our stupidity.
If we glide along with our present social inertia, history will record our society as one of stupidity in the service of greed. “Unable to change their patterns of thought in response to a change in natural conditions, they perished.”
· · · · · ·