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Another Earth Day Rant

Jeff Siegel | Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Watching all the Earth Day coverage yesterday was pretty exhausting. Let’s face it: Most of those talking heads on television are only repeating what one of their researchers likely found on the internet. They are not the experts, and they don’t often seek out the real experts when it comes to reporting on the environment or sustainable development. Generally speaking, of course.
How many times do we have to hear about changing light bulbs, carpooling, and turning down your thermostat? Don’t get me wrong. I certainly appreciate all the attention the cable news networks devote during Earth Day. But it’s really become a broken record falling on deaf ears.
Truth is, most people in this country only respond to two things: Fear and Greed. And if you don’t tap those buttons, you’re just spinning your wheels.


If we truly are the messengers of sustainability and all things green, then we should be hitting these emotional buttons harder than Hasim Rahman hit Lennox Lewis in 2001 (A boxing reference for those of you who don’t follow the sport). Certainly that’s what those who oppose sustainability and all things green do on a regular basis.
How many times have you read about lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles potentially catching fire? And no mention of the thousands of conventional ICE vehicles that catch fire every year. Or what about the suggestion that a cap and trade system would raise energy prices an average of $3,100 per household? This is the price tag that cap and trade opponents are blasting in an effort to scare the nation into more complacency on any type of legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, that $3,100 figure is based on an MIT study, with some questionable calculations made by a handful of shady politicians in Washington. Meanwhile, one of the authors of the study, John Reilly, said that their use of his estimates were “wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.” Reilly put the correct estimate at about $340. So who should we believe? MIT researchers or the politically-charged denials and ramblings of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?
I’m not saying cap and trade is or isn’t the answer. But shouldn’t we let accurate, non-manipulated data steer us in the right direction?
Bottom line: These folks are tapping that fear and greed by warning of huge cost increases in energy prices. And they’re doing it by manipulating data to further their own political agendas.
What’s most frustrating, is that few will ever take the time to seek the truth. Who has the time to double check every single thing we see and hear in the news? And this is what the opposition is relying on to maintain that overwhelming level of complacency that has plagued this nation for decades.
Well, I can’t accept that. So I’m including here, a brief list of emotionally-charged talking points that I believe can really elevate the conversation to the next level, and perhaps even spark more action (and less complacency).
* The security costs associated with having the military protect Persian Gulf oil supplies were estimated at around $44 billion in 2007.
* A 2004 report from the Pentagon predicted that rapid climate change would set off global competition for food and water supplies.
* Carbon sequestration may reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by coal-fired power plants. However, coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury in the United States. No matter how you slice it, coal ain’t clean!
* Figuring in all the direct and indirect costs of oil (supply disruption, military expenditures, subsidies, etc.), the true cost of oil is well over $400 a barrel. And the true cost of gas? Closer to $10.00 a gallon.
* Reducing electricity and gas usage through energy efficiency initiatives could save consumers nearly $170 billion a year.
The truth is, if most people in this country knew the real cost of an unsustainable energy economy, like the one we’ve had for years, we’d have the most vibrant rail system in the world, electric vehicles at every dealership, and enough solar, wind and geothermal power to supply nearly every kilowatt we consume.
Let’s not treat Earth Day as an excuse to play along with the illusion that most folks are on board. Let’s use it as a catalyst to ramp up our efforts in an aggressive and rational manner. You can display as many polar bears and CFLs as you want. But that won’t enable the change we need to secure a vibrant and sustainable energy economy. We need to expose those who wish to deter progress, and remind folks of the very real economic, environmental and national security costs associated with our continued reliance on fossil fuel resources. And this is the place to do it. So please share your thoughts here. What can we do to move from Earth Day observers to daily, active participants in the new energy economy?


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