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Today our Congresswoman is holding a town hall meeting quite certainly aimed at stopping something called “Cap and Trade” which, she says in a recent op ed, is a “tax [that] would require energy producers and businesses to pay to emit carbon emissions in the hope of reducing greenhouse gases.”
I plan to attend the meeting. [See postscript, which follows below, written April 10.]
The Congresswomans focus seems completely on the present: taxes, jobs, cost of gasoline, government regulation. There is nothing apparent in her remarks that exhibit concern for the future generations, those who will pay big time for our countries short-sightedness now and, indeed, in the past. We continue to live as if there is no tomorrow, and we seem to have forgotten that our kids, grandkids, their cohort worldwide, and their descendants after them, will have to live (and die) with what we have left them.
Below is my small contribution to the “cap and trade” conversation that I will, at minimum, leave with the Congresswoman.
My feelings of concern are elevated by the fact that earlier today I spent a couple of hours with a third grade grandson at his school. (Today they were having an international day, and my class hour was spent learning about China from a young woman who grew up in Beijing. It was very interesting.)
Here is my very brief summary of the history of energy in our country (and by extension the world.)
? – Peak use of trees as source of fuel and light.
1847 – Peak Whale Oil* (for lamps and such).
1859 – Oil business begins in western Pennsylvania
U.S. population then was 10% of today
Early 1900s – Commercial production of horseless carriages
U.S. population was about one-fourth of today
Five present states were not yet in the Union
1927 – U.S. wells pump 75% of world’s oil supply**
No activity in Arabian peninsula.
2000s – Peak Oil passes – now its all “down hill”***
U.S. population exceeds 300,000,000
with about 250,000,000 motorized vehicles
Do we pay now, or do we pay later? In my mind, there is no doubt which should be chosen, unless we truly don’t care about those descendants springing from our generation.
* – Penn State Professor Richard Alley of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change www.ipcc.ch (from his talk to school kids at Augsburg Nobel Peace Prize Festival Minneapolis March 5, 2009. His informative talk is on YouTube. See http://www.peacesites.org/educators/nobelfestival for a link to the talk.)
** – recollection after looking at a 1927 Encyclopedia Britannica in London late October, 2001.
*** – Major editorial in Minneapolis Star Tribune August 27, 2005.
Postscript after the Congresswoman’s session:
I attended the entire session which appeared to attract about 300 people. The main presenter was a representative of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an oil-company backed think tank. It was hard to ascertain the makeup of the crowd since proceedings were tightly controlled, including police presence. No signs were permitted, and only written questions were accepted – and only a few of those made the cut. The presentation was predictable, almost impossible to take notes, full of sarcasm and a good sized enemies list. It was devoid of proposed solutions. It was against, not for.
I left the session with some dominant thoughts:
1) I wouldn’t (and didn’t) change any of what I wrote prior to the meeting (see above).
2) “Global warming” and its impact may be impossible to tie down with precision, but the accumulation of evidence through science is not wise to ignore or dismiss or ridicule. Humankind may well be courting disaster through its own actions (and inactions) and, worse, these errors in judgment are not reversible by man. We had one chance to do it right. I think the advocates sounding the alarm about global climate change have a stronger argument, and the public is listening. People are not at all sure we are in routine times. Industry knows this. Big business is far more culpable than ordinary people for the problem since it has and had greater research capacity, but simple culpability (blaming) will not solve the problem. That’s for all of us.
3) Scarcity of elements essential to contemporary society like fossil fuels are easier to quantify and, thus, to use as warnings to the public.
4) As I was leaving the parking lot I got to thinking about desperately poor Haiti (which got a couple of sarcastic mentions from the speaker – and chuckles from some in the audience). Haiti was one of Christopher Columbus’ early stops about 1492. After its discovery, it was a treasure trove of natural resource, ripe for the picking. It was a source of great wealth for France. The Spanish first, then the French and finally we Americans, “raped, looted and pillaged” the Caribbean island into a corpse of its former self. A too-cold-to-live-in Haiti is where our developed countries are ultimately heading, in my opinion. Once our resources are gone, or too expensive to recover or purchase, we end. And this could happen sooner than later.
5) We are well advised to listen to, take seriously, and prepare for the worst case scenarios, especially as they relate to resource scarcity, especially fossil fuels.
6) We are also well advised to work hard and sacrifice now for a better than expected future. This is no time to give up.
I would also urge readers to check http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse/ and take the time to watch the entire “crash course” which requires 2-3 hours, in very manageable time segments of from a couple of minutes, to 15 or so. It comes highly recommended by a friend who is analytical, not partisan and not prone to overreaction. Check out the about page for the credentials of the author of the seminar then make your own decision.
Chris Martenson ultimately talks about 20 years out from now; the grandson I visited in school yesterday (one of many in my constellation) will be 29 then. It makes one think.
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