Friday, April 28, 2006

Comments on "A Really Repellent Spectacle"

With all the blathering on about high gas prices, Thomas de Zengotita makes the point on Huffington Post that the really repellent spectacle is that THIS is what is getting Americans all up in a lather. Not Iraq, not Katrina, not the Thousand Points of Scandal emanating from the Second Bush Presidency.

Sad but true, there are no quick solutions to our energy situation; yet our elected representatives think they can present us with the appearance of one in the form of tax moratoriums (not enough and not addressing the real problem anyway) and $100 rebate checks that are laughably off-target and insulting to most. (What, they're going to BRIBE is back into complacency?)

The only short-term fix that makes any kind of sense is to repeal the obscene tax breaks given to oil companies. These were allegedly passed to 'encourage' the oil companies to search more and drill more. Aren't their record-high profits encouragement enough? Besides, they're OIL companies. Searching for and drilling for oil is their JOB. I could see the government giving tax incentives to those sectors of our economy that are both vital to our national interest and struggling economically, but the oil companies are anything but struggling.

We need to apply long-term fixes, something the American public is sadly deficient at. Without sustained intelligent leadership (and yes, that means telling people what to DO) there will be no lasting solution to this problem.

We need one or more alternatives to fossil fuels, alternatives that *work.* Solar and wind, where feasible, to provide land-based power. Nuclear, if we can clean it up (man, wouldn't workable fusion be NICE?) along with better power storage technology to provide mobile energy for our transportation infrastructure.

We also need to reorganize where we are and who and what we move around. It's a pity we can't remake the geography of our cities and towns back to where it was in the 40s and 50s, before the mass exodus (exodii?) away from the cities and into suburban sprawl, but aside from the tremendous disruption such a change would entail there are now too many of us, and too many of us wanting to work in the city and live in the country.

We also don't all have to move around so much. Many jobs could be done from home, with an average computer, broadband access and VPN access to the corporate LAN. Those who say "you can't manage/work/communicate effectively this way" need to learn some new skills or adapt old ones. Email and telephones work well enough for most things, and teleconferencing can help with the rest. Even if people came into the office three days weekly instead of five it would help.

Regarding the goods we transport around the nation, more of it should be moved into the electronic realm for good. Didn't someone (Larry Ellison?) once say something like "why are we moving atoms around when we really only have to move electrons?") He was talking about software distribution, but nowadays and in the near future it could be so much more.

All of these are long-term shifts, socially seismic in nature, which will require a prolonged, focused and stubbornly determined effort on the part of our national leaders to implement. Instead of proclaiming a war "on" something (poverty, drugs, terrorism, insert adjective here) let's proclaim a war *for* something, a Manhattan Project for Energy.

It will take that kind of effort. Sadly, I don't see our government -- or our nation, for that matter -- rising to the task until we are sufficiently challenged. That challenge will come. The question is -- how bad will it get before we finally move off our backsides and get started? How many people will suffer and die along that road to necessity?

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