"No Fooling Mother Nature"
I recently read an article by Thomas Friedman on the Gulf oil spill which sums up our need to move to clean energy alternatives much better than I can write it. It’s time to move quickly away from our dependence on oil, foreign and domestic and toward alternative clean energy sources. Here’s what Friedman writes:
NEW YORK TIMES
May 5, 2010
No Fooling Mother Nature
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the
Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it
comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only
meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy
bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy
infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path
to ending our addiction to oil.
That is so obviously the right thing for our environment, the right
thing for our national security, the right thing for our economic
security and the right thing to promote innovation. But it means that
we have to stop messing around with idiotic “drill, baby, drill”
nostrums, feel-good Earth Day concerts and the paralyzing notion that
the American people are not prepared to do anything serious to change
our energy mix.
This oil spill is to the environment what the subprime mortgage mess
was to the markets — both a wake-up call and an opportunity to
galvanize a constituency for radical change that overcomes the
powerful lobbies and vested interests that want to keep us addicted to
If President Obama wants to seize this moment, it is there for the
taking. We have one of the worst environmental disasters in American
history on our hands. We have a public deeply troubled by what they’ve
seen already — and they’ve probably seen only the first reel of this
gulf horror show. And we have a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill
ready to be introduced in the Senate — produced by Senators John
Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham — that would set a price on
carbon and begin to shift us to a system of cleaner fuels, greater
energy efficiency and unlock an avalanche of private capital to the
clean energy market.
American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to
Washington: “Every major country in the world, starting with China, is
putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy —
except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we’ll do the rest.”
The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill is an important step in that
direction. It is far from perfect. It includes support for more off-
shore drilling, nuclear power and concessions to coal companies. In
light of the spill, we need to make this bill better. At a minimum, we
need much tighter safeguards on off-shore drilling. There is going to
be a lot of pressure to go even further, but we need to remember that
even if we halted all off-shore drilling, all we would be doing is
moving the production to other areas outside the U.S., probably with
even weaker environmental laws.
Somehow a compromise has to be found to move forward on this bill — or
one like it. But even before the gulf oil spill, this bill was in
limbo because the White House and Senate Democrats broke a promise to
Senator Graham, the lone Republican supporting this effort, not to
introduce a controversial immigration bill before energy. At the same
time, President Obama has kept his support low-key, fearing that if he
loudly endorses a price on carbon, Republicans will be screaming
“carbon tax” and “gasoline tax” in the 2010 midterm elections.
Bottom line: This bill has no chance to pass unless President Obama
gets behind it with all his power, mobilizes the public and rounds up
the votes. He has to lead from the front, not the rear. Responding to
this oil spill could well become the most important leadership test of
the Obama presidency. The president has always had the right instincts
on energy, but he is going to have to decide just how much he wants to
rise to this occasion — whether to generate just an emergency response
that over months ends the spill or a systemic response that over time
ends our addiction. Needless to say, it would be a lot easier for the
president to lead if more than one Republican in the Senate was ready
to lift a finger to help him.
Our dependence on crude oil is not just a national-security or climate
problem. Some 40 percent of America’s fish catch comes out of the
gulf, whose states also depend heavily on coastal tourism. In
addition, the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast are part of
the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. It was created by Teddy Roosevelt
and is one of our richest cornucopias of biodiversity.
As the energy consultant David Rothkopf likes to say, sometimes a
problem reaches a point of acuity where there are just two choices
left: bold action or permanent crisis. This is such a moment for our
energy system and environment.
If we settle for just an incremental response to this crisis — a “Hey,
that’s our democracy. What more can you expect?” — we’ll be sorry. You
can’t fool Mother Nature. She knows when we’re just messing around.
Mother Nature operates by her own iron laws. And if we violate them,
there is no lobby or big donor to get us off the hook. No, what’s gone
will be gone. What’s ruined will be ruined. What’s extinct will be
extinct — and later, when we’re finally ready to stop messing around,
it will be too late.