I’m not sure it matters whether or how we survive the Trump era in the short term…

…because we were already pretty dang close to crossing the point of no return for global warming utterly destroying civilization, and with Republicans all but guaranteed to control the White House until 2020 and Democrats facing a massive uphill battle to retake just one house of Congress before then no matter how unpopular Trump and the Republicans become, the United States pulling out of the last best hope to salvage something of civilization might actually be a net positive.

Even without global warming, the increased distrust and discarding of norms once seen as essential to American democracy really makes it feel like we’re witnessing the end of, if not Western civilization, at least the United States as we know it. Throw global warming into the mix, and you get a contributing factor to my lightness of posts so far this year: it’s hard to see any point in trying to contribute to the direction of society when it feels like it’s in the midst of collapse. Short of inventing time travel, all we can do is talk about what should have been done and wrap things up before turning out the lights.

I’d like to think it isn’t that bad and that America and the world do in fact have a future worth contributing to, but it’s hard to see the path to that future, and the narrative being written right now sure seems to resemble societal collapse more than society overcoming adversity to emerge stronger than ever.

How Broadcast TV is Like a Bus

[Free-to-air TV is] kind of like the horse, you know, the horse was good until we had the car…The age of broadcast TV will probably last until 2030.

-Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, speaking in Mexico City on Monday while downplaying the significance of Nielsen rating Netflix and Amazon (something I’m not sure how it would work or that it’s a good idea).

Here was my response:

Well before the car caught on, mass transit systems were already being built in the world’s biggest cities, although most of them used the established rail technology. An early horse-drawn “streetcar” was open as early as 1807, and in the United States in 1832; the first horse-drawn bus line opened in 1824. The first leg of the London Underground opened in 1863; an early precursor to the New York City subway using pneumatic tube technology was built in 1869, a year after an elevated line up the west side of Manhattan opened. By the time World War II hit, even Los Angeles, that car utopia, had one of the great public transportation systems in the world, as Who Framed Roger Rabbit put it.

Then in the postwar period the American dream, as defined as a cheap house in the suburbs supported by the freedom of the car, became the norm for most middle-class (white) Americans. The streetcars that lined America’s streets were replaced with buses that offered more flexibility to change routes, but that also proved their undoing; the perceived potential for bus lines to change at the drop of a hat meant it couldn’t support the transit oriented development that had typified urban development before the war. (That said, despite what Roger Rabbit would have you believe, the demise of the streetcars probably can’t be chalked up to a car industry conspiracy, but to real inherent drawbacks of streetcars as a technology; for that matter, the inability of buses to support development had as much to do with not putting much more investment into them than sticking a pole in the ground as anything else.) Outside of New York, as middle-class whites left the city and turned it into a refuge for the poor, so mass transit came to be seen as little more than a form of welfare for the poor. (This was far less the case outside the United States and Canada.)

In recent years – really decades at this point – a combination of dissatisfaction with the suburban lifestyle compared to the urban lifestyle and awareness of the destruction of the environment caused by car dependency (not to mention the impact our dependency on oil has on global politics) has resulted in a nascent “urbanist” movement and a transit renaissance, and members of my generation increasingly are shunning the suburban lifestyle their parents sought and clung to so fervently in favor of a return to the city (which some cities are reacting to better than others). Much of this movement has involved the advocation for and construction of new rail systems, be they streetcars, “light rail”, or heavy rail, but for the most part the very people that advocate for revived transit systems still tend to ignore or disdain buses (even the people running the transit agencies that run the buses), even though buses do much more of the (often unglamorous) heavy lifting of moving people across the city than the shiny new rail lines. (That “bus rapid transit” is often supported by people who just want to kill rail plans and don’t actually have a real BRT proposal doesn’t help, especially when much American BRT is barely any better than plain old buses and if you make them sufficiently better, you might as well put in rail.) Meanwhile, many people have suggested that any number of new technologies, be they electric cars, self-driving cars, even more “flexible” “demand-responsive” systems, or “personal rapid transit”, might help reduce our oil consumption or otherwise obviate the need for mass transit, but the ability to transport large numbers of people in a small amount of space is too valuable, especially in dense cities, for the need for transit to ever fully go away.

Some of the similarities to broadcast television should already be obvious. Like transit, for many years, decades even, broadcast TV was the norm – indeed the only form of television there was. Like buses, broadcast television has become increasingly neglected and dismissed as welfare for the poor as two different, more appealing visions, the multitude of channels made possible by cable and the freedom of scheduling made possible by the Internet, have become ascendant. Like buses, broadcast TV is doubly shunned both as a part of the larger category of mass transit/linear television and as a particular kind of linear television; like buses, broadcast TV is disdained even by the people who run it in favor of cable, despite being home to the most popular programming on television (even if cable as a whole is more popular), and like transit, linear television is subject to all sorts of dreamers like Reed Hastings or this guy who see it as wasteful and “inflexible” and think that technology can obviate the need for it and render it obsolete, ignoring its ability to serve large numbers of people in a minimum of space (in this case, spectrum or bandwidth). And like buses, broadcast linear television is ignored by the very people leading my generation’s societal movement against the dominant paradigm of the past, the “cord-cutting” movement against cable, who understate just how much of the unglamorous work of delivering video is done by linear television, and how much they are asking of the Internet. (Remind me to tell you about all the other times the Cordkillers podcast I linked to above has rooted for broadcast television to go away and have its spectrum reappropriated to deliver the Internet. And incidentally, the “back-to-the-city” movement stands to put a lot more people within range of TV stations.)

Broadcast television may be old technology, but mass transit is even older, and it’s still around because it does what it does better than anything else that has or possibly will come along. Linear television isn’t simply a technological stopgap until a better technology comes along; it has its own benefits, as AT&T and Verizon have recognized even as they drive existing broadcasters off the air, and one ignores those benefits, or what broadcasting will look like in the future, at their peril. Media companies may prefer a post-cable future where all video is consumed on the Internet for a variety of reasons, but Reed Hastings might want to be careful what he wishes for, or at least predicts, because if linear television completely goes away and all consumption of content moves to the Internet, the inevitable result will be that ISPs will have that much more incentive and ability to subject Netflix to interconnection blackmail and other violations of the spirit of net neutrality.

Bruce et al v. Gore and Al Jazeera: Why the sale of Current is undeniably a good thing for any neutral observer

Imagine my surprise when I checked Twitter last night to find that “Al Gore” was trending, considering I happen to follow him and he hadn’t really tweeted all day. Then imagine my surprise to click it and find the headline:

Al-Jazeera in talks to buy Current TV

“Huh”, I think. “That’s interesting, and makes a bit of sense. It’s not too different from when Al Gore bought the old NWI network in the first place – effectively inheriting existing distribution deals. Al Jazeera has made zero inroads at penetrating the American market, while beIN Sport has been more successful, for certain definitions of “successful” (scroll about halfway down), suggesting their reputation might not necessarily be a deal-breaker given the right circumstances. It’d be interesting to see what sort of a splash Current could make with Al Jazeera’s financial and journalistic resources.”

Then I see the actual tweets:

I wonder how @algore is going to spend all his oil money he received from selling Current?

Is it me or does it seems like prominent climate activists (Matt Damon & Al Gore) seem very happy to take money from oil rich Arab nations.

Inconvenient Truth: Environmentalist Al Gore sold out to oil money, did so just in time to take advantage of tax benefits for the very rich

Al Gore is trending because he just made 100 million dollars from the oil he’s been railing against for the last couple decades.

Needless to say, this pretty much mirrors the reaction of the conservative blogosphere (along with accusing Gore of trying to push a deal through before tax hikes kicked in, ignoring the larger liberal justification for high taxes on the upper classes).

Alright, let’s set the record straight here. Oversimplifying Al Jazeera to “oil money” sells them short quite a bit, and accusing Gore of cashing out without regard for his principles seems to overlook the broader picture. First of all, on a basic and obvious level, Al Jazeera first became a dirty word for Americans with their release of Osama bin Laden’s tapes, so they have a history of running afoul of Republicans, making them and Al Gore good bedfellows. But more broadly, it highlights a sort of journalism it’s impossible to imagine today’s American “journalists” ever pulling off. As much as simply hearing the name (or even the “Al” followed by a word that triggers spell check) can cause some Americans to instinctively retch, Al Jazeera’s record really is top-notch; specifically, it’s clear that Al Jazeera isn’t a lapdog for Arab oil sheiks, given their record of reporting on the Arab Spring and other rebellions in the region, suggesting the prospect of a surprisingly smooth transition for Current, as Gore would himself point out. Given the state of American “journalism” these days, perhaps we could use Al Jazeera to show everyone how it’s really done.

It’s true that Al Jazeera is in fact owned by an Arab oil sheikh on behalf of the ruler of Qatar, but that brings us to the next point: as much as the oil-rich nations of the Gulf get rich off of selling us the fuel we need to power our cars, and as much as OPEC tries to make sure we continue to do so, they’re also well aware the oil river won’t run forever and have invested heavily in developing their countries to be economic powers even beyond their oil production, which news-watchers saw hints of in the Twitter-fueled response to the disputed 2008 Iranian election, and later in the more tech-savvy elements of the Arab Spring. In Qatar’s case in particular, said ruler has presided over, besides the launch of Al Jazeera, the institution of women’s suffrage, legalization of labor unions, and the introduction of a written constitution and Christianity; it’s hard to find another Arab nation quite so Westernized, certainly not one that hasn’t had Americans push “regime change” on them. (They’re still too small and hot to host a World Cup, though.) Admittedly, it has long been the single most polluting nation per capita in the world, but it’s easy to see that dropping faster than most other Arab nations.

It’s also true that Al Jazeera will be shuttering Current’s current (heh) format in favor of more of a straight news channel, bolstering the image of Gore abandoning his principles when someone comes calling with a multi-billion-dollar check. But it’s worth noting that since Gore bought NWI, MSNBC has become the liberal news channel Gore originally hoped to build, rendering Current superfluous; Current essentially lucked into taking up Gore’s original vision when MSNBC fired Keith Olbermann, but it was never going to measure up to MSNBC, certainly not after firing Olbermann itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gore had eventually sold Current to someone else for less. If anything, while Al Jazeera’s apparent plans to create another clone of its usual operations are noble, they might well betray a lack of understanding of the American news market, where people would rather hear people complain, preach, and bicker about the news than actually report it. At the very least, I’d strongly urge them to avoid the “Al Jazeera” name, which might well still be a poison pill for most Americans, if not for the name itself then certainly for its “foreign” connotations. (There’s a reason BBC News has a very limited American presence; indeed upon learning of the deal, Time Warner Cable couldn’t drop the channel fast enough.)

Discounting such questions on the wisdom and practicality of the matter, this court finds the prospect of a somewhat widely distributed network run by Al Jazeera to be a cause for unbridled hope for those fearful for the state of journalism on American television, assuming Al Jazeera can properly appeal to the American market. Given this, and given the long-term prospects of Current in its current form considering the rest of the marketplace, the court finds that despite unsavory appearances, there is no reason to believe that Gore’s sale of Current was done without regard to his own stated and personal principles, but rather was done out of genuine appreciation of their vision for the channel, and indeed the court suspects Gore would actually prefer their vision but was pessimistic about its practicality when he originally made noise about a liberal news channel. While he cannot be let completely off the hook for effectively selling to the ruler of one of the dirtiest countries in the world, the court has reason to believe that Gore can justifiably claim that it is not a betrayal of his own cause. This court rules in favor of Al Gore and Al Jazeera, with some reservations, including serious lingering ones regarding the timing of the matter vis-a-vis new tax rules.

You know what just occured to me?

Hey… I’m on Twitter now… a new channel to communicate with me… and a public one at that…

I’m tempted to try and start up the global warming debate again I tried to start back in April, and put some of the research pressure off of me.

Delusion of grandeur, or could I actually get both sides to take part in a massive Twitter debate and make real the “mirroring effect” I envisioned for the series? YOU DECIDE!

I posted a strip I never should have, so I have two strips redundant with it.

(From Sandsday. Click for full-sized going around in circles.)

EDIT: I forgot to remove this post when I actually DID post the strip before leaving earlier today. I’m spending the weekend in the Portland area for a wedding. I may have street signs NEXT weekend. But not as many as I would have otherwise hoped, at least from this trip.

Global Warming Series Open Thread

I’m trying to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt where global warming stands scientifically, good or bad, ideally resulting in a case the most hardcore partisan couldn’t ignore, and I don’t want to leave any information on the table. So leave a comment here, or e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com, if you have any counterarguments or new information in response to the arguments already presented (with an emphasis on today’s strip, whatever strip that may be) that doesn’t duplicate one of my existing sources, as listed below.

UPDATE 4/12/2009: I’m no longer specifically checking my e-mail for new global warming information; use this thread instead. See this post for details.

It’s possible I may miss something that actually is in one of the sources, and one of the sources is so goldanged long there’s no way I’d get through it all myself, so I’d also be up to being referred to any information already in the sources, and feel free to debate the other side’s information and arguments as well instead of waiting for me.

Supporting the global warming theory:

Opposing the global warming theory:
This last source is so long and thorough I don’t really have time to go through it all, so you can duplicate links from there.

Examining the Democratic Platform Part VI: “Advancing Democracy, Development, and Respect for Human Rights”, “Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet”, and “Seizing the Opportunity”

This is continued from Parts I-V of my examination of the Democratic Platform. Today was not a good day for work on my platform examinations.

“Advancing Democracy, Development, and Respect for Human Rights”:

No country in the world has benefited more from the worldwide expansion of democracy than the United States. Democracies are our best trading partners, our most valuable allies, and the nations with which we share our deepest values. The United States must join with our democratic partners around the world to meet common security challenges and uphold our shared values whenever they are threatened by autocratic practices, coups, human rights abuses, or genocide.

It sounds like the Democrats may be up for “joining with other democracies” as well – there may be some hints here that the Republican program of expanding democracy and forming a clique of democracies isn’t 100% disagreed to by the Democrats. But really, this sentiment and the actual position taken with it is very reasonable.

“Build Democratic Institutions”: “The Democratic Party reaffirms its longstanding commitment to support democratic institutions and practices worldwide. A more democratic world is a more peaceful and prosperous place. Yet democracy cannot be imposed by force from the outside; it must be nurtured with moderates on the inside by building democratic institutions.” I may have jumped the gun on making this point during my examination of the Republican Platform. We’ve seen what happens when democracy is “imposed by force from the outside” in Iraq: it doesn’t work and creates lingering resentment, and it doesn’t help that Iraq may not have had the cultural values that nurture a democracy.

“The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy and put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We will increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, equality for women and minorities, and the rule of law.” Does that mean a “strong legislature” in the United States, where even with the opposition party in power Congress has basically rolled over for whatever the President wants? And the “rule of law” makes a comeback! And this all deserves a call back to the Republicans’ statement that “[s]ocieties that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.” So the US has some interest in all of this!

These are all good goals but they touch on what I mean by being “culturally ready for democracy”. In some societies, “independent judiciaries, free press,” and “civil society” is unheard of; religious freedom is literally heretical; women have defined, inferior roles that are seen as the natural order of things; and minorities are naturally inferior. The cultural underpinnings of democracy, we sometimes forget, are almost all Western; trying to institute democracy on a very different culture with very different values, without understanding that culture and its differences, could be courting disaster. Democracy seems to be working well in India and Israel, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule, as they have had strong, historical Western influence.

“In new democracies, we will support the development of civil society and representative institutions that can protect fundamental human rights and improve the quality of life for all citizens, including independent and democratic unions.” Gotta plug those unions! If you know what civil society is, you may be wondering how government can “promote” it, since it consists mostly of institutions outside of government. This is pretty much all an agreeable platitude. “In non-democratic countries, we pledge to work with international partners to assist the efforts of those struggling to promote peaceful political reforms.” Sounds reasonable. Keep funding our pro-democracy programs as well, because that “reflects American values and serves our interests”. After the Democrats put in all their social programs, will there be any money to fund those programs?

“Invest in Our Common Humanity”:

To renew American leadership in the world, we will strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity. In countries wracked by poverty and conflict, citizens long to enjoy freedom from want. Because extremely poor societies and weak states provide optimal breeding grounds for terrorism, disease, and conflict, the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need.

This all sounds reasonable and an important point. Compare the Republican statement that “Societies that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.”

It is time to make the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America’s goals as well. We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect, and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and avian flu.

Sounds good and could help build our own prosperity. Certainly controlling terrorism and stopping weapons trafficking are important goals. “We will double our annual investment in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed toward worthwhile goals.” Could be considered throwing money away, especially when you consider all the other ways Democrats want to spend money, but then you feel like a bastard for not caring about people in third world countries. But: “We will work with philanthropic organizations and the private sector to invest in development and poverty reduction.” Sounds good – allow entities outside government to do their work – but would the government meddle in their operations? Nudging the private sector into development in third world countries is certainly good, though.

But if America is going to help others build more just and secure societies, our trade deals, debt relief, and foreign aid must not come as blank checks. We will recognize the fragility of small nations in the Caribbean, the Americas, Africa, and Asia and work with them to successfully transition to a new global economy. We will couple our support with an insistent call for reform, to combat the corruption that rots societies and governments from within.

What’s the carrot on the stick that will actually make them reform? At least the Democrats recognize the Republicans’ challenge when they said: “Decades of massive aid have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries, where it has often propped up failed policies and corrupt rulers.” But they don’t answer the Republicans’ “call for… greater accountability by recipient countries so as to ensure against malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption, and to ensure continued assistance is conditioned on performance.” The Republicans supported democratization over token gestures of food and monetary aid, and the Democrats supported democratization in the previous section and “development” here. And education:

As part of this new funding, we will create a $2 billion Global Education Fund that will bring the world together in eliminating the global education deficit with the goal of supporting a free, quality, basic education for every child in the world. Education increases incomes, reduces poverty, strengthens communities, prevents the spread of disease, improves child and maternal health, and empowers women and girls. We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child everywhere is taught to build and not to destroy.

More throwing money away, but “bring[ing] the world together” implies that not all the money would come from the American government. This makes education sound like the “magic bullet” that will solve all the Third World’s problems. The Republicans just list education on a list of “core development programs” to give “greater attention” to, but they also listed “emphasizing literacy and learning” on a list of “high-impact goals” for aid, as part of their “no more handouts” program.

“Our policies will recognize that human rights are women’s rights and that women’s rights are human rights. Women make up the majority of the poor in the world. So we will expand access to women’s economic development opportunities and seek to expand microcredit.” The first half of the first sentence is a tautology; the second is simultaneously a tautology and bound to be controversial. Republicans also called for “microcredit funding for small enterprises” as one of the “foundations of economic development”, but that’s not really what the Democrats are talking about. “Women produce half of the world’s food but only own one percent of the land upon which it is grown. We will work to ensure that women have equal protection under the law and are not denied rights and therefore locked into poverty.” In places primed for the idea of women’s equality, where trying to “make women into men” won’t cause riots, that’s fairly common sense. The Republicans would reject the UN convention on women’s rights because it gave some sort of support to abortion, so the GOP could protect “traditional” “marriage and family”. I’m still smarting from that.

“We will modernize our foreign assistance policies, tools, and operations in an elevated, empowered, consolidated, and streamlined U.S. development agency. Development and diplomacy will be reinforced as key pillars of U.S. foreign policy, and our civilian agencies will be staffed, resourced, and equipped to address effectively new global challenges.” I’m sure Republicans should sound relieved that the development agency would be “consolidated and streamlined”, but I don’t know what needs “modernization”. And there’s a lot of other stuff that needs to be “staffed, resourced, and equipped” as well.

Time to take another shot at Bush: “American leadership on human rights is essential to making the world safer, more just, and more humane. Such leadership must begin with steps to undo the damage of the Bush years. But we also must go much further. We should work with others to shape human rights institutions and instruments tailored to the 21st century.” What are the new challenges of the 21st century that current human rights institutions are not prepared for? “We must make the United Nations’ human rights organs more objective, energetic, and effective.” You already mentioned keeping human rights violators off the Human Rights Council, but good. “The U.S. must lead global efforts to promote international humanitarian standards and to protect civilians from indiscriminate violence during warfare.” Sounds good. “We will champion accountability for genocide and war crimes, ending the scourge of impunity for massive human rights abuses.” Would that include joining the International Criminal Court?

“We will stand up for oppressed people from Cuba to North Korea and from Burma to Zimbabwe and Sudan. We will accord greater weight to human rights, including the rights of women and children, in our relationships with other global powers, recognizing that America’s long-term strategic interests are more likely to be advanced when our partners are rights-respecting.” I’m not 100% sure what the connection is between respecting human rights and advancing “America’s long-term strategic interests”. But as a human rights-advancing move, it certainly sounds like a good idea to restrict negotiations and/or make tougher demands unless human rights abuses are tamped down (an approach the Republicans espouse on several specific occasions). It is worth noting that you just came close to the Republican position of making our diplomats “advance[] America’s values”. Although if you insist on the right to an abortion I know some people who will scream bloody murder. And I notice you finally name-dropped Burma in there.

“Global Health”:

Democrats will invest in improving global health. It is a human shame that many of the diseases which compound the problem of global poverty are treatable, but they are yet to be treated.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a massive human tragedy. It is also a security risk of the highest order that threatens to plunge nations into chaos. There are an estimated 33 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS, including more than one million people in the U.S. Nearly 8,000 people die every day of AIDS. We must do more to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. We will provide $50 billion over five years to strengthen existing U.S. programs and expand them to new regions of the world, including Southeast Asia, India, and parts of Europe, where the HIV/AIDS burden is growing. We will increase U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to ensure that global efforts to fight endemic disease continue to move ahead.

More potential throwing money away, and this entire section will tie back into the Democrats’ health care plan. I know I’ll sound like a bastard again, but this has the added problem of being of unclear national interest, aside from the “plunge nations into chaos” line. It’s also worth noting that some people, especially Republicans, will tell you that there are cultural problems that make AIDS worse in Africa, and combating it more difficult.

“We also support the adoption of humanitarian licensing policies that ensure medications developed with the U.S. taxpayer dollars are available off patent in developing countries.” Not sure what the practical effect of that would be… “We will repeal the global gag rule and reinstate funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).” The “global gag rule” is the Republicans’ policy of refusing to provide any support to organizations that aid abortion in any way, which I tore to shreds in Part II of my Republican examination. “We will expand access to health care and nutrition for women and reduce the burden of maternal mortality.” Sounds good. A lot of good-sounding platitudes in here. “We will leverage the engagement of the private sector and private philanthropy to launch Health Infrastructure 2020a global effort to work with developing countries to invest in the full range of infrastructure needed to improve and protect both American and global health.” Obviously, very gimmicky.

“Human Trafficking”:

We will address human trafficking—both labor and sex trafficking–through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure that trafficking victims are protected and traffickers are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for prostitution.

The Republicans preferred to take on human trafficking by establishing the gimmicky “Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking, reporting directly to the President”, prodding other governments to crack down, and extending the American policy of “publicizing the identity of known offenders” to international travel. The Democrats don’t have anything as specific but they do want to focus on the “root causes” in addition to their “strong legislation and enforcement”.

“Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet”: Yes, it’s a return to the topic of climate change, this time specifically focused on climate change and not just “energy independence”! But what does it have to do with national security and foreign affairs?

We must end the tyranny of oil in our time. This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the longer-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, conflict, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. That could also mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

We understand that climate change is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern–this is a national security crisis.

I almost want to say, you better touch on climate change in both of the remaining parts as well. Before we begin, I want to make some clarifying remarks about “cap-and-trade” schemes. Back in Part II, I said I was deeply suspicious of cap-and-trade schemes but gave a description of them that was not necessarily accurate. At least some cap and trade schemes involve setting a hard limit not on each individual producer’s carbon emissions, but on the emissions of the whole economy. To produce any emissions at all, companies would have to purchase carbon credits from the government, and have to deal not only with other companies producing carbon but also environmentalists buying credits to lower emissions even further. It all sounds like a good way to move us towards a green future while raising money for the government and green research projects, but there are enforceability concerns and it encourages energy efficiency more than new energy sources. Anyway, enough talking; on with the show!

“Establish Energy Security”: The Democrats take an oblique shot at Bush and the Iraq war, saying “achieving energy security in the 21st century requires far more than simply expending our economic and political resources to keep oil flowing steadily out of unstable and even hostile countries and regions.”

Rather, energy security requires stemming the flow of money to oil rich regimes that are hostile to America and its allies; it requires combating climate change and preparing for its impacts both at home and abroad; it requires making international energy markets work for us and not against us; it requires standing up to the oil companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and political contributions; it requires addressing nuclear safety, waste, and proliferation challenges around the world; and more.

For the most part, this all sounds good, but I notice the Democrats are also standing up for nuclear (sigh) but they are calling to address its “challenges”. Not sure what the problem with “international energy markets” is. “Democrats will halt this dangerous trend, and take the necessary steps to achieving energy independence. We will make it a top priority to reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or ten million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the amount of oil we are expected to import from OPEC nations in 2030.” Once again, the Dems aren’t being ambitious enough. 35 percent by 2030? Ideally we should be able to get rid of our oil consumption almost entirely by then, between electric cars and mass transit – and we should, especially in the likely scenario we start running out of oil.

“Lead to Combat Climate Change”: This is the sort of sentiment I like to see from a major party:

We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.

Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge. Getting our own house in order is only a first step. We will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries preserve biodiversity, curb deforestation, and leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development.

Not only the first sentence of the first paragraph, but most of the policy positions in the second, are “hear, hear” remarks. “[L]eapfrog[ging] the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development” almost takes the words right out of my mouth, and “developing countries” can’t just include third-world countries but also nations like China. I pretty much said as much in my hysterical anti-climate-change rant.

“We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols.” Gimmicky but sounds like a good idea. “China has replaced America as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia.” That’s a good approach. “We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.” Another good idea, but I hope the Democrats really will be willing to limit themselves under international pressure. As should the other nations listed. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats aren’t whining that we shouldn’t “expect the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared by all.” “This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.” Let’s try and create that demand and meet it pretty close to right now.

“Seizing the Opportunity”:

It is time for a new generation to tell the next great American story. If we act with boldness and foresight, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that this was the time we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time we defeated global terrorists and brought opportunity to forgotten corners of the world. This was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. This was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep.

Hyperbole much? This “section” is really a summary of the whole part. I have a feeling it’ll be difficult for future generations to grasp the magnitude of the WMD threat today. Similarly, some people may not even realize that “the America that has led generations of weary travelers…to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep” even needed renewing, except from the Bush years. It sounds good that you’re going to “help[] forge peace in the Middle East”, but well, there’s a reason that would be “the next great American story”. But defeating terrorists and combating the climate crisis? That is the next great American story.

The Democrats devote another two very short paragraphs to a past when America was a beacon of hope around the world instead of a flashpoint of hatred, and call for America to return to the former, but I’m going to “seize the opportunity” to look back on the part and whether the Democrats met their goals. They said “today’s threats” “come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from violent extremists who exploit alienation and perceived injustice to spread terror.” So the Democrats will take steps to reduce and hopefully end any worldwide need for nuclear weapons, and secure materials that could be used to make them. They have a superior strategy to the Republicans’ (provisionally) in dealing with Iran, but the Republicans are tougher on North Korea. But my biggest problem I have with the Democrats here is that I’m not sure they’re willing to invest in actually preventing biological and chemical weapon attacks, only in reducing their impact. The Democrats might be soft on cyberterrorism as well. As for terror, the Democrats are superior to the head-in-the-sand Republicans on Pakistan, but their real strength lies in their quest to restore America’s integrity and likability, and in their quest to aid development in countries prone to the message of extremism. The one concern I have is whether the Democrats have a system to monitor terrorists that won’t impinge on America’s civil liberties.

They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy.” This is a vague sentence, and sometimes the Democrats address it and sometimes they don’t. “They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people.” So the Democrats put a focus on development and democratization to build up third world countries – goals the Republicans espouse as well. “They come from an addiction to oil that helps fund the extremism we must fight and empowers repressive regimes. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.” And both of those are dealt with in the same way. The Democrats are far superior to the Republicans in combating the urgent matter of climate change. There is plenty of room for improvement and they take a liking to a number of alternative energies I don’t like, but realistically, given the choice between the Democratic or Republican plan, I would rather take the Democrats. I’m just concerned they might not have an urgent enough stance on the problem.

Short part, isn’t it? Well, the Democrats’ Part III is right around the bend – we might be entering the home stretch here as well!

Examining the Republican Platform Part V: “Energy Independence and Security” and “Environmental Protection”

This is continued from Parts I-IV of my examination of the Republican Platform. I have hope the next examination will go up by the end of the night.

Considering that so far, I have by and large agreed more often with the Democrats than I have with the Republicans, and I started this project (which by the way, is dominating the run-up to the election more than I ever had in mind and proven to be a lot less fun) last Monday with the Democratic Platform before launching into the Republican plan, you may be wondering why I’m letting the Republicans take the lead and reach Part V first. The short answer is that the Republican platform has struck my fancy more.

The long answer is that Part IV, “Energy Independence and Security”, touches on my single-issue topic, the one I expounded on so much at length, that of the concerns raised by global climate change. But right off the bat, Danger, Will Robinson! This part is so short that I can conceivably throw in a second part to fill out the space. The Republicans do give an entire part to the issue of energy, a bit more than the Democrats, but the Republicans also have more parts (we’re only halfway through and the Republicans are already passing the number of parts the Democrats have in their entire platform). Any concerns I might have over the Republicans’ commitment to climate change are seemingly validated when they devote all of two pages to the following part on the environment. On the plus side, we’ve only got four more parts or so to go after this (we passed the halfway mark last part), so we’re fast approaching the end!

It’s been a long time since I properly quoted a section introduction to see how it addresses its own goals:

All Americans are acutely aware of the energy crisis our nation faces.  Energy costs are spiraling upward, food prices continue to rise, and as a result, our entire economy suffers.  This winter, families will spend for heat what they could have saved for college, and small businesses will spend for fuel what could have covered employee health insurance.

Our current dependence on foreign fossil fuels threatens both our national security and our economy and could also force drastic changes in the way we live.  The ongoing transfer of Americans’ wealth to OPEC – roughly $700 billion a year – helps underwrite terrorists’ operations and creates little incentive for repressive regimes to accept democracy, whether in the Middle East or Latin America.

It didn’t have to be this way, and it must not stay this way.  Our nation must have a robust energy supply because energy drives prosperity and increases opportunity for every American.  We reject the idea that America cannot overcome its energy challenges – or that high gasoline prices are okay, as long as they are phased in gradually. We reject half-measures and believe “No, we can’t” is not a viable energy policy.

Together we can build a future around domestic energy sources that are diverse, reliable, and cleaner.  We can strengthen our national security, create a pathway to growing prosperity, and preserve our environment.  The American people will rise to this challenge.

Hmm, “no we can’t”? I smell a not-so-subtle dig at Obama there! Who’s positing the idea that “America cannot overcome its energy challenges”? What do you mean by “high gasoline prices are okay, as long as they are phased in gradually”, what’s that referring to? Of course I don’t want to see any “half-measures” with the stakes as high as they are!

“Growing Our Energy Supply”:

We must aggressively increase our nation’s energy supply, in an environmentally responsible way, and do so through a comprehensive strategy that meets both short and long term needs.  No amount of wishing or hoping can suspend the laws of supply and demand.  Leading economists agree that any actions that will increase future energy supplies will lead to lower energy prices today.  Increasing our production of American made energy and reducing our excessive reliance on foreign oil will:

  • Bring down the high cost of gasoline and diesel fuel.
  • Create more jobs for American workers.
  • Enhance our national security.

In the long run, American production should move to zero-emission sources, and our nation’s fossil fuel resources are the bridge to that emissions-free future.

All good points. Some notes. Hand-in-hand with focusing too much on reducing our dependence on foreign oil, instead of what’s best for reversing climate change, is focusing too much on gas prices. Gas prices should be made irrelevant, not necessarily lowered. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t enough oil offshore to make much of a dent in gas prices, now or later. Agree that “American production should move to zero-emission sources” – as soon as possible. Using “our nation’s fossil fuel resources” as “the bridge” is pretty much unacceptable, because it continues reliance on the major source of greenhouse gases.

“Growing American Energy Production”: As Sarah Palin would say, drill, baby, drill! Drill everywhere, from the oceans to the mountains to the valleys white with foam! “To deliver that energy to American consumers, we will expand our refining capacity. Because of environmental extremism and regulatory blockades in Washington, not a single new refinery has been built in this country in 30 years.  We will encourage refinery construction and modernization and, with sensitivity to environmental concerns, an expedited permitting process.” Which is a good thing if you’re going to drill for all that oil, but we should be getting away from oil! And the Democrats say “we can’t drill our way to energy independence”. “Any legislation to increase domestic exploration, drilling and production must minimize any protracted legal challenges that could unreasonably delay or even preclude actual production.  We oppose any efforts that would permanently block access to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” As long as legitimate legal concerns aren’t railroaded past and the ecological concerns with drilling in ANWR are addressed.

“Nuclear Power: the Earth’s Clean Future”:

Nuclear energy is the most reliable zero-carbon-emissions source of energy that we have.  Unwarranted fear mongering with no relationship to current technologies and safeguards has prevented us from starting construction of a single nuclear power plant in 31 years.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has for decades relied upon nuclear-powered vessels, and other nations have harnessed nuclear power to provide a major portion of their energy consumption.  There is no reason why the United States cannot catch up and do the same.  Confident in the promise offered by science and technology, Republicans will pursue dramatic increases in the use of all forms of safe, affordable, reliable – and clean – nuclear power.

I try to represent a typical, uncommitted American’s perspective in these examinations, and I’m not sure I’ve succeeded. So I’m tempted to say this is mostly bull-bleep. But instead I’ll list the concerns I had earlier – waste needs to be disposed of for many thousands of years, nuclear reprocessing is currently laden with problems, you need to secure the uranium so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands, it still produces at least some greenhouse gases, it’s not entirely renewable, etc. That’s entirely apart from the Three Mile Island-type incidents you probably have in mind. Just because “other nations” do it doesn’t mean we should – right, “control-the-UN-and-go-in-unilaterally-if-everyone-thinks-we-suck” GOP? Don’t just talk about “unwarranted fear mongering”, to some extent it’s very much warranted, address these concerns. With a substantial rollout solar power is already ready to meet most of our energy needs with few or no side effects. How is it less reliable? “The labor force will expand, with nearly 15,000 high quality jobs created for every new nuclear plant built – and those workers will lead the nation away from its dependence on foreign oil.” They will need a lot of education, even the construction workers, and I see no commitment to that.

“Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Hydropower”: In other words, “oh, here are these other sources of energy as well.”

Alternate power sources must enter the mainstream. The technology behind solar energy has improved significantly in recent years, and the commercial development of wind power promises major benefits both in costs and in environmental protection.  Republicans support these and other alternative energy sources, including geothermal and hydropower, and anticipate technological developments that will increase their economic viability.  We therefore advocate a long-term energy tax credit equally applicable to all renewable power sources.

Well, you’re playing my song, and you at least talk about a form of energy tangential to wave or tidal power, but you also bring up geothermal like the Democrats. The Dems don’t say directly how they would support alternative energies but they seem to imply a direct giveaway. I’m thinking a modern TVA may be in order. “Republicans support measures to modernize the nation’s electricity grid to provide American consumers and businesses with more affordable, reliable power” – hear hear, but I don’t think you’re committing to it as heavily as the Democrats. “We will work to unleash innovation so entrepreneurs can develop technologies for a more advanced and robust United States transmission system that meets our growing energy demands.” Sounds like building a bigger patchwork system of different standards from different companies. But beyond that little “privatize everything” point, sounds good.

“Clean Coal”:

Although alternate fuels will shape our energy future, coal – America’s most affordable and abundant energy resource and the source of most of our electricity – remains a strategic national resource that must play a major role in energy independence.  We look to innovative technology to transform America’s coal supplies into clean fuels capable of powering motor vehicles and aircraft.  We support coal-to-liquid and gasification initiatives, just as we support investment in the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies, which can reduce emissions.  We firmly oppose efforts by Democrats to block the construction of new coal-fired power plants. No strategy for reducing energy costs will be viable without a commitment to continued coal production and utilization.

Ah, the “clean coal” scam. I already linked to environmentalists’ critiques of it. It’s far safer, and possibly less expensive, to invest in technologies for which “carbon capture” isn’t needed. Power our cars and airplanes with coal?!? Sequestering carbon is obviously impractical; how the hell are you ever going to clean up coal enough to serve as automobile fuel suitable for use in our cities, even with “coal-to-liquid” technology?!? You’re going to need to do a lot of “carbon capture” with how much CO2 “coal-to-liquid” can produce. Of all the things you could have proposed to power our cars, you go with coal?!?

“Natural Gas”: “Natural gas is plentiful in North America, but we can extract more and do a better job of distributing it nationwide to cook our food, heat our homes, and serve as a growing option as a transportation fuel.  Both independently and in cooperation with alternative fuels, natural gas will be an essential part of any long-term energy solution. We must ensure it gets to consumers safely and quickly.” It’s still a fossil fuel and it still pollutes, not to mention it leaks methane in transport, which is significantly more of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. No direct mention of taking care of that little problem.

“Energy Cooperation”: “We embrace the open energy cooperation and trading relationship with our neighbors Canada and Mexico, including proven oil reserves and vast, untapped Canadian hydroelectric generation.” Certainly sounds good; the “proven oil reserves” we shouldn’t be in too much of a rush to exploit, the “vast, untapped Canadian hydroelectric generation” we should, with some consciousness of the ecological impacts of dams. I don’t believe this is mentioned in the Democrats’ plan.

“Reducing Demand for Fossil Fuels”: Now this is getting into my wheelhouse! “While we grow our supplies, we must also reduce our demand – not by changing our lifestyles but by putting the free market to work and taking advantage of technological breakthroughs.” Do those “technological breakthroughs” refer to those advances in solar and wind technology? “Increase Conservation through Greater Efficiency”:

Conservation does not mean deprivation; it means efficiency and achieving more with less.   Most Americans today endeavor to conserve fossil fuels, whether in their cars or in their home heating, but we can do better.  We can construct better and smarter buildings, use smarter thermostats and transmission grids, increase recycling, and make energy-efficient consumer purchases.  Wireless communications, for example, can increase telecommuting options and cut back on business travel.  The Republican goal is to ensure that Americans have more conservation options that will enable them to make the best choices for their families.

Those are all important goals, some of which I mentioned in my earlier discussion. “New Technologies for Cars and Other Vehicles”:

We must continue to develop alternative fuels, such as biofuels, especially cellulosic ethanol, and hasten their technological advances to next-generation production.  As America develops energy technology for the 21st century, policy makers must consider the burden that rising food prices and energy costs create for the poor and developing nations around the world.  Because alternative fuels are useless if vehicles cannot use them, we must move quickly to flexible fuel vehicles; we cannot expect necessary investments in alternative fuels if this flexibility does not become standard.  We must also produce more vehicles that operate on electricity and natural gas, both to reduce demand for oil and to cut CO2 emissions.

More pushing “cellulosic ethanol” like the Democrats, while giving a shout-out to “rising food prices”, without addressing the land use constraints of any plant-based fuel. The shout-out to electric vehicles is something I absolutely love; the shout-out to nat-gas less so, and no mention of mass transit. In retrospect, I should have been able to tell from the introductory paragraph that the Republicans would focus way too much on reducing our dependence on foreign oil, not on climate change, and “half-measures” like “clean coal” suggest a deceptive edge to those remarks.

We move on to Part V, “Environmental Protection”, and see what happens when the Republicans get into the core of my wheelhouse. They start by only talking about “increasing our American energy supply and decreasing the long term demand for oil”, not decreasing the short term demand for oil like might be necessary. Still, a good start.

“Addressing Climate Change Responsibly”:

The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  While the scope and long-term consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment.  Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy.  Any policies should be global in nature, based on sound science and technology, and should not harm the economy.

(Thinking about it, deciding not to say anything about the “ongoing scientific research” comment.) Everything sounds good to this point. I might say that a short-term economic hit is OK when you consider the long-term consequences, but green investment right now could actually help the economy anyway.

“The Solution: Technology and the Market”: Other than “privatization”, this is the Republicans’ other favorite buzzword: the “free market”. They believe technology and the “free market” will “decrease emissions, reduce excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, increase energy efficiency, mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs, and maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy.” Eee…eee. Not sure what to think of that line “maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy”. That might indicate they secretly want to keep climate change going. It certainly suggests they don’t take it very seriously. The last two points, though, are important when you combine how urgent the problem is and how little confidence world leaders have inspired in most environmentalists.

“To reduce emissions in the short run, we will rely upon the power of new technologies, as discussed above, especially zero-emission energy sources such as nuclear and other alternate power sources.” Still pushing nuclear power as the panacea. “But innovation must not be hamstrung by Washington bickering, regulatory briar patches, or obstructionist lawsuits.  Empowering Washington will only lead to unintended consequences and unimagined economic and environmental pain; instead, we must unleash the power of scientific know-how and competitive markets.” Using climate change to hammer your typical drumbeat: “Don’t let Washington do it.” “Use the For…er…free market.” I think I’ve grown numb to this sort of drumbeat.

“International Cooperation”: “Because the issue of climate change is global, it must become a truly global concern as well. All developed and developing economies, particularly India and China, can make significant contributions in dealing with the matter.  It would be unrealistic and counterproductive to expect the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared by all.” Agreed in basics, but like I said in my earlier posts on climate change, there is no such thing as doing too much. It may be “unrealistic and counterproductive” for “the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared”, but it’s imperative that it carry as much burden as it can, and so must everyone else, and the developed nations should help the developing ones by providing them with the technology they need. Bickering about “who should shoulder more burden” as the Republicans hint at here misses the larger point.

“Using Cash Rewards to Encourage Innovation”: “Because Republicans believe that solutions to the risk of global climate change will be found in the ingenuity of the American people, we propose a Climate Prize for scientists who solve the challenges of climate change.  Honoraria of many millions of dollars would be a small price for technological developments that eliminate our need for gas-powered cars or abate atmospheric carbon.” Sounds like a great idea. Something about the title turns me off, though.

“Doing No Harm”: From the very first sentence, I become very disappointed. “Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government.  We can – and should– address the risk of climate change based on sound science without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly.” Unfortunately, those “doomsday scenarios” are rather plausible, and possibly disturbingly close. Given the other terms in the second sentence, I suspect “situations to be managed responsibly” is an euphemism for something else. I may be almost as extreme as they come about climate change but I don’t consider myself a “no-growth” kind of guy; it’s precisely because I think we can and should grow as we go green that I’m such a big backer of transit. I don’t even have any idea where this comes from or how anything I suggested in my earlier global warming series would be “no-growth”.

A robust economy will be essential to dealing with the risk of climate change, and we will insist on reasonable policies that do not force Americans to sacrifice their way of life or trim their hopes and dreams for their children.  This perspective serves not only the people of the United States but also the world’s poorest peoples, who would suffer terribly if climate change is severe – just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled.  We must not allow either outcome.

If it were to turn out that no matter what efficiency and renewability gains we achieved, there was no way the average American’s way of life could be sustained, would you be willing to sacrifice this plank, or would you rather sacrifice the Earth? I think for the most part, the suggestions I proposed largely preserve most Americans’ way of life. The major two exceptions are home heating and my backing of mass transit, but in the case of the former the Republicans themselves called for building “better and smarter buildings”, and for the latter I know there are some people who would think that would be an improvement in people’s quality of life. (Regardless, if you’re not hep to transit you still have the electric car.) I don’t think that living a little cooler, or cutting back on barbeques, exactly constitute “trim[ming our] hopes and dreams for [our] children”. I’ve elided the impact climate change would have to direct industrial applications, such as the use of gas flames as a source of heat in reactions, but I suspect we can find non-polluting (or less-polluting) ways to achieve the same goals with little negative impact to the economy. I’m not a “no-growth radical”, I tried in my climate change recommendations to preserve as much of our way of life as we can while dramatically slicing emissions (I even gave up on a couple of non-fossil fuel fronts), and I encourage you to read them. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I do suspect it’s an euphemism for “let’s do as little as possible”.

“Continuing Our Stewardship over the Environment”:

The Republican perspective on the environment is in keeping with our longstanding appreciation for nature and gratitude for the bounty the Almighty has bestowed upon the American people.  It was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who said, “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.”  We agree.  Whether through family vacations, hunting or fishing trips, backpacking excursions, or weekend hikes, Americans of all backgrounds share a commitment to protecting the environment and the opportunities it offers.  In addition, the public should have access to public lands for recreational activities such as hunting, hiking, and fishing.

Thanks for trivializing the issue. So what’s your stand on motorcycles or snowmobiles in public lands? Time to beat the “privatization” drumbeat again: “In caring for the land and water, private ownership has been the best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the world’s worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under governmental control.  By the same token, it is no accident that the most economically advanced countries also have the strongest environmental protections.” Wait, what? Did you just undermine the point of the first sentence by implicitly backing “environmental protections”? That’s like the Democrats saying “Social Security is not in crisis” where I’m not sure that’s what you meant to say, except I’m not sure this is as simple as a one-word typo.

The next paragraph begins by praising “[o]ur national progress toward cleaner air and water” through “balancing environmental goals with economic growth and job creation”. “State and local initiatives to clean up contaminated sites – brownfields – have exceeded efforts directed by Washington. That progress can continue if grounded in sound science, long-term planning, and a multi-use approach to resources.” Sounds good.

Government at all levels should protect private property rights by cooperating with landowners’ efforts and providing incentives to protect fragile environments, endangered species, and maintain the natural beauty of America.  Republican leadership has led to the rejuvenation and renewal of our National Park system.  Future expansion of that system, as well as designation of National Wilderness areas or Historic Districts, should be undertaken only with the active participation and consent of relevant state and local governments and private property owners.

First two sentences sound well and good. The last sentence also sounds reasonable but could be disagreed with; we need to make sure private property owners don’t impose unreasonable demands on everyone.

But by and large, I am incredibly disappointed. Virtually everything I disagreed with in the Democratic platform, the Republicans have as well if not worse. Mixing up goals? The Republicans have that in spades. Geothermal and the “clean coal” scam? The Republicans name-dropped geothermal along with solar and wind, much like the Democrats, and devoted a whole paragraph to “clean coal”! Using cap-and-trade to fund renewable investment? The Republicans don’t propose anything specific to discourage emissions. Weaning us off cars entirely? The Republicans, if anything, give even less sign they’re ready to do that than Democrats do. Only a quarter of our energy from renewable sources by 2025? Republicans don’t give any firm target at all and the word “renewable” only appears once in either part. Doubts about cellulosic ethanol? The Republicans are plugging it as well. The Democrats aren’t even finished with dealing with energy and climate change, and I’ve finished covering the Republicans’ entire plan in one part – in fact, had I stopped before this paragraph I would have fallen short of 4,000 words! The part specifically dealing with “Environmental Protection” is the shortest in the whole platform! I was actually considering getting a head start on the next part of the platform!

The really sad part is that the Republicans actually have some good points, though again the Dems might claim some of them later. They would use a tax credit and “Climate Prize” to encourage renewable energy development instead of growing the size of the bureaucracy and government. Democrats haven’t yet mentioned cooperation with Canada and Mexico, and only obliquely referred to “plug-in hybrids” and didn’t directly call for making more. No pushing India and China to fill their role and cut to renewables as fast as possible either. And there is something to be said for giving some credit to the free market. And I like to think my recommendations, by and large, meet the criteria laid out by the Republicans in the “Environmental Protection” part. But the GOP wants to use fossil fuels as a “bridge” to a renewable future and see nuclear as our chief source of electricity thereafter. I’ve yet to see anything that fundamentally wrong in the Democrats’ approach.

I am so running back to the Democrats for my next examination.

An addendum to my previous posts on global warming

To say the least, I have not been getting in as many posts on these topics I feel so strongly about as I would have liked. I think I started falling behind when I was stricken with a cold over the weekend, and subconsciously started using that as an excuse to goof off once I started losing the momentum. It doesn’t help that Blogger-in-draft is still buggy when it comes to pasting in information in IE7; I was working on a post offline, not backing up anything in any way, and found that it is still prone to coughing up on me. I’ve planned to put up the first part of that post on Sunday, but after starting last Sunday or Monday I haven’t started again AT ALL…S Ethejw,hvwgfmjklcxvk

I HAD intended to spend enough time on global warming and mass transit that it would sort of bleed in to a return to more political posts. Given the amount of work I’m about to start on, that’s looking unlikely. I’m going to start again tonight, this time using Word as the basis of the post in question, and I have no idea how that will go. Things might start looking a bit iffy on other fronts – I haven’t started putting together the next College Football Schedule, and won’t start until tomorrow at the soonest.

But I do want to make a clarification for anyone who’s seen my rundown of global warming-fixing options and my conclusion that there’s only one or two approaches that will green up our transportation paradigm other than mass transit investment. I didn’t mention offshore drilling for what should be obvious reasons. Of course I have heard that it won’t do a lick to lower gas prices appreciably, but also, my emphasis was on global warming. That’s also why I’m skeptical of T. Boone Pickens’ natural gas crusade and why I was always skeptical of the biofuels craze and why I’m still skeptical about hydrogen.

I think, when we talk about alternative fuels for our cars, we tend to mix up two different goals: solving global warming, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. With the latter, any alternative fuel will do. Any one you want. You want biofuels? No problem. You want hydrogen? No problem. It doesn’t matter what we pick as long as it stops us from contributing to, as Pickens keeps ramming down our throats, “the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind”. But for global warming, we can’t settle for less. We need to make sure we curb emissions, not just oil use.