Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What if Global Warming is not real? Let's Pretend...

This is a copy of a Letter to the Editor the Mouseherder wrote to Newsweek.

I take exception to the exceedingly narrow scope demonstrated by both Sharon Begley (the Truth About Denial) and Robert Samuelson (Greenhouse Simplicities). If this were just a debate about global warming and human agency in climate change, I'd be less concerned. However, Newsweek has totally missed the underlying grassroots corporate, religious and citizen movements converging on the questions of climate change, energy independence, one's duty for stewardship of God's living gift, and a parent and grandparent's desire to turn over not only a sustainably run planet but also a sustainable run economy as well.

Neither article asks this most important question: "What is the down side to acting as though climate change is real, that human agency in global warming is confirmed, and that we as a nation can do something about it?" After careful study my answer is: there are not many downsides; even if, in the end, we are wrong about our ability to effect global warming at all. In fact, we will only gain a stronger more diverse and cleaner economy with more job; we will get well funded research into alternative energy; conservation, and carbon sequestration; we will have cleaner air and water; and we could prevent the probability that our children and grandchildren will have to fight needless and endless wars over a nonrenewable and disappearing resource like oil (isn't it a little crazy to be funding both sides of the War On Terror because we have this addiction to cheap oil?). The truth is, there is a looming energy crisis not only in China, not just in the United States, but worldwide, and we should prepare ourselves for it.

Mr. Samuelson needs to rethink his proposed raising of the gasoline tax and instead support:

1. legislation removing all subsidies from the oil, gas, and coal industries and allowing the free market to find its natural price level for those products (given the likely resulting true cost of gasoline, I've seen estimates of $5-7/gallon, automotive CAFE standards will take care of themselves as drivers will then make rational choices about transportation. People will drive--or ride--what they can afford, once the government stops distorting the market price by making everyone subsidize waste). Those subsides and tax credits should be redirected to carbon sequestration research, making alternative energy affordable, and making Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles a reality (which would recharge on the mostly wasted energy generated by utilities overnight).

2. strike from the tax code the provisions that allow business tax write-offs for vehicles over 6,000 lbs. GVW. This provision was intended to help ranchers, farmers and tradesmen like plumbers, but instead has been roundly abused in every sector of business to write off large gas guzzling SUVs as company cars for executives and salesmen alike.

3. Pouring massive tax credits into nationwide energy conservation efforts for utilities, individuals and businesses. In a country where gasoline consumption alone has soared 15% per year for a decade (and electrical demands even more), it is a fools errand to try to build our way to energy sufficiency on dwindling supplies of carbon resources. Instead, Congress should mandate public utilities to launch immediate conservation and alternative energy development programs, create services programs among their business and residential customers to reduce demand and then reward the utilities, home owners and businesses for their successes.

Last year our family knocked 30% off of our gasoline and utility bills with very little effort, little expense and no pain. This year, we're really working at it. Despite what Vice President Chaney thinks, this is not some weird tree-hugger fantasy. Every dollar saved through conservation is a dollar in your pocket and while we may not be able to save our way to self sufficiency, conservation is a more rational position to start from than building more energy capacity into a wasteful system.

Corporations from Goldman-Sachs to GE to Wal-Mart who have seriously studied the energy future of the nation and are adjusting not only their portfolios, but also their practices and products to position themselves to take advantage of the new energy economy. This nation should do the same. Energy Independence is Homeland Security, but it's much, much more as well. It is a means of securing a rational future for those who come after us.

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