We all know energy reform bills are dead in Congress. Another thing we know is that in order to push a bill through Congress, it has to pander to what is important to the Congress people, so that they can go back home with a bill to tout for re-election. Its time environmentalists learn how to properly get a bill through Congress! Let's face it, a bill with words like "energy" and "comprehensive environmental" in the title just doesn't sell as well as one with names of import like "homeland security" or "economic reform." In fact, let's take a look at these two hot topics in politics, homeland security and economic reform. It's not much of a leap to see the economic and security benefits that would come from advancing our energy policies.
Let's start with the economy. We need jobs. In July the US unemployment rate was at 9.5%. A massive push for new energy architecture would not only create an immense amount of jobs, but also help feed our rapid growth in energy demand. Not only do we need new power generation, we also need to replace our power distribution network primarily running on century old ideas and technology. There must also be a push for selective retrofitting of current architecture. This can be done in two ways: 1) since the market has failed to provide the necessary drive for cleaner technologies, greater incentives would greatly increase the "carrot" for private enterprise. Perhaps the more radical solution would be 2) programs modeled after Works Progress Administration whereby jobs in this sector are created through government programs. While these two solutions are clearly geared to ramp up environmentalism, they will simultaneously engage our struggling economy. Placing the emphasis on the latter is perhaps the tactical push necessary for further advancement in our field.
Energy reform is also a matter of homeland security. Our oil addiction is fueling the opposition in America's war on terror. We are burning this petroleum candle on both ends. We are hemorrhaging money to fund the war in Iraq (finally, we're drawing this chapter to a close) and Afghanistan along with other operations, while at the same time these enemies are funded through oil sales. Thus, our national security almost hinges on our ability and willingness to cut our dependence on oil. Yet, for some reason those who are committed to funding the search for more efficient alternatives are deemed "greenpeacers." This problem is only compounded during these economic times. Many argue that this legislation deserves the "backseat" while other, more pressing issues, take the foreground. However, reformulating the bills we put into Congress, not just in their name but in the focus of their content and intention, may allow this seemingly "backseat issue" to be realized as the large issue that it is.
In these deeply troubling economic times, it can be hard to see that an issue like energy reform, that will not yield a lot of short-term reward, needs to be taken care of in the here-and-now. But I ask you, if we restructure our bills to focus on the reverberations that our lack of attention to the environment has caused, can we as a nation not commit to helping our economy grow? Can we as a nation not commit to cutting our dependence on foreign oil? And can we as a nation not commit to protecting the environment? Why is it that the former questions seem to be easier to answer than the latter?
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