The following essay should be designated as Vol. 10, No. 11 of A-Clue.Com, my free weekly e-mail newsletter founded in 1997. Enjoy.
Yet I’ve renamed my blog, partly because I have finished describing the cyclical history which leads to the 2008 election, but only partly.
It’s also to track the energy issue and focus attention on just how vital, just how far-reaching, our commitment to it must be if we are to save the planet.
Climate scientists say we are either approaching a tipping point, or have already passed one, at which immense irrevocable changes in our planet become certain. It’s like the stress tests you perform on new metals. You place the sample under pressure, and for a long time nothing happens. Then suddenly you reach the material’s breaking point and it snaps, all of a sudden.
That’s what is happening to our planet. Our atmosphere is changing, with more carbon dioxide and less oxygen, which we need to breathe. Ozone is still depleting, meaning there is more sunlight, and heat, coming in. Oceans are rising, planting zones are moving north, seacoasts are eroding, cities are disappearing, hurricanes are stronger.
Yet our use of hydrocarbons is increasing, because we have no alternative to them. This becomes obvious when you look at what politicians like Bush call "alternative" fuels. They’re talking about ethanol, alcohol produced from plants. It burns just like gasoline. It does nothing for the underlying problem of global warming or climate change.
Real change demands immense changes in how we live, and how we
organize our economies. It demands a commitment to those changes, not
just from government but from all citizens, and all businesses. It
Things didn’t have to be this way. When Jimmy Carter warned us, in
what became known as his "malaise speech," of our over-dependence on
foreign oil, his entire approach was rejected by the American people.
We chose instead the leadership of Ronald Reagan, who has immersed us
deeply into Middle East politics in order to maintain oil supplies. The
War in Iraq is just the latest in a series of conflicts aimed at
securing supplies by meddling in other nations’ affairs. It literally
has become blood for oil.
Most Americans now understand that game can’t go on. But few are willing to embrace the policies needed to really turn things around.
We need to pay more for energy, not less. If the price of oil fell
to $10 a barrel tomorrow, this would remain the case. We have to figure
out ways to create hydrogen without hydrocarbons, transport them, and
use hydrogen to run fuel cells in cars and trucks. We have to insulate all
our buildings, and get solar panels up on as many as possible. We need
incentives to tap the energy of the Earth, of the waves, of the wind.
We have to embrace a completely different utilities structure, one in
which we can sell power as well as buy it. We have to double the
efficiency of that system, finding new materials for high-power lines.
Oh, and we have to do it all yesterday. (Philip Harris, to the right, wrote about The War on Oil in The American Chronicle in 2006.)
There are immense benefits from all this even if you believe global
warming to be a crock. We can wean ourselves away from Middle East oil,
and from the necessity of spilling blood on behalf of Middle East
politics. We can force Russia toward a more democratic system, and push
Chavez out of power in Venezuela. We can become an exporter to China
and India, not just an importer.
But we can only do all these things if we commit to them. We can
only do these things if we make big changes in our lives, big changes
in our policies, big changes in our economy.
That’s why I call the new blog The War Against Oil.
Unlike the present conflict in Iraq, a real war demands sacrifice
from every citizen. And every citizen willingly makes those sacrifices,
certain that they are for a greater good. A real war changes all our
funding priorities, radically, and focuses all our attention on the
One difference between this war and others is that there don’t have
to be losers, and don’t have to be casualties. Not in the usual sense
of people dying on a battlefield. But you need to understand that there
will be losers, and there will be casualties. There will be deaths. When oil exporters find the product they’re pumping to be nearly worthless, there will be upheavals, revolution, and plenty of death.
We’re not fighting the oil powers here, or the oil companies, or the
oil countries. We’re fighting oil, which has an iron grip on us right
now, which is strangling us, choking us. Oil has become a narcotic in our economic system, a form of cocaine we all take, which we think we can’t do without, but which is killing us nevertheless. Why do you think so many kids
are going to soccer games with inhalers? Why do you think so many
people died, not just in Katrina, but all the great storms of 2005? Why
are so many of our elderly dieing each summer from heat-related
There will be more casualties. Especially in the Third World, where
this conversion will naturally proceed more slowly. Many tropical
countries are already denuded of trees, burned for fuel, and floods
take thousands of lives each year. Water flows over dirty ground,
increasing the toll of disease. Intense heat makes it ever-harder to
grow crops, leading to starvation. People move away from such places,
toward El Norte. Some die in the attempt.
This is the defining issue of our time, the defining issue for the
rest of my life, and possibly for the rest of your life, too. It has
taken Iraq and Katrina to get your attention. That’s a terrible price
to pay, but at least we have your attention.
So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to insist on real
renewables, and convert to a hydrogen economy, or are we going to fall
asleep when oil goes below $50/barrel again?
That’s the choice. I believe a new consensus is emerging in favor of
fighting, not for oil, but against it, and against the power it has
over our lives, our nation, and our souls. My blog will look toward the
solutions, to the new businesses and opportunities created by this
change, and by the inevitable scams which follow in the wake of such
change. I will urge that those who corrupt this process be treated as
they should be treated, as war profiteers and traitors.
This won’t remain a feel-good story. This is going to be a hard
struggle, with many defeats and reversals along the way. But as your grandparents faced down Hitler two generations ago, you have no
choice. It will take that kind of commitment to win this fight for our
Consider me a war correspondent for the duration.