Thursday, August 7, 2008

Facing the Energy Crisis: Making Sense (Part 1 of 3)

I'm growing tired of the pandering political responses to our economic and environmental energy crisis vague promises, illogical challenges, and imbecilic proposals that cater to popular (uninformed/misinformed) opinion, big corporations, and big-shot environmentalists. In what's shaping up to be a fairly tight presidential race between Senator Change and Senator Straight-talk, I was hoping for more imaginative (or at least sensible) policy ideas. In the absence of such, I've drafted a rough plan, offered in three parts.

Part 1 — Making Sense

Set Broad, Meaningful, and Inspiring Goals
. We'll never hit the target if there isn't one. And it won't matter if we hit it if it isn't any good. Let's try something like: "Achieve complete energy independence & sustainability within the next 20 years." Crazy? Maybe. I'd call it visionary. Let's not be underachievers, here. In pursuing such goals, it's important to keep other factors in mind — funding, energy costs (for production and consumption), the national economy, local economies, trade, foreign policy, global responsibility and world leadership, etc. But it's time to move away from "reduce greenhouse gases to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050" jargon. Those type of goals are painfully uninspired and completely meaningless to ... just about everybody. Kyoto Protocol, anybody?

Start Defining Our Terms. Efficient, sustainable, carbon-neutral, zero-emissions, environmentally friendly, renewable, eco-centric, green — everyone is making claims these days, and almost none of these claims are regulated. Fuel efficiency and energy efficiency aren't necessarily the same thing. Just because something gets better gas mileage doesn't make it better for the environment. And just because it's better for the environment doesn't mean it's better for the country, the economy, or the world. Are we talking about relief at the pump or relief for the planet? Let's not confuse the issues.

Be Honest. Unless it really is significantly better for the environment, don't call it "green" if that's not its color. Admit to some inconvenient truths, like the fact that shaping wise environmental policy for our future will require compromise and sacrifice. The economic situation may get worse before it gets better. Admit that Cap & Trade is a bad idea and "carbon offsets" are little more than useless gestures. Admit that manufacturing fuel-efficient hybrid and electric cars isn't always as environmentally-friendly as people assume. Just be honest. People are confused enough as it is.

Additional Reading:
Part 2 — Treating Fossil Fuels with Foresight
Part 3 — Creating a Sustainable Future