Monday, July 26, 2010

POLITICS: Respectfully Pimped

The following is a post I began a little while ago that I hoped would bring some historical perspective to the current BP oil leak situation—intimating at how UTTERLY short-sighted and borderline retarded we are as a nation when it comes to energy consumption. Funny thing happened: the folks at "The Daily Show" took the same historical angle and in about 5 minutes made a much wittier case for our national stupidity. A few weeks later, with the news of BP head Tony Hayward getting the axe, I thought it worthwhile to remember the generational extent of this issue lest we start feeling O.K. about the whole issue now that someone's head is rolling and there has been progress in capping the leak. So here's the compelling opening of my original post followed by Jon Stewart & company's spot-on pimping of said original post. Respect is due.

POLITICS: The BP Leak And Why We Are Accessories To The Crime

Two propositions that might help explain our current dilemma in the Gulf with BP's Deepwater Horizon oil leak:
1) Richard Nixon was the most progressive President on U.S. energy policy in the past 40-plus year.
2) If you offer a 4-year-old the choice between a cookie right now and a huge ice cream sundae in three hours after dinner, you know exactly which option the 4-year-old will choose every time.

That's right—we're the 4-year-old. Nixon, and almost every president since, is the parent patiently hoping we'll make the wise choice. But we like cookies. Lots of cookies. And we want the cookies now. Now, baby, now. And while we pick the cookie crumbs off our bellies as we watch news reports of millions of gallons of oil pumping into our ocean each day, we shake our heads, curse British Petroleum, and the government, and never once connect our lives to the horrible disaster we've watched unfold over the past two and a half months. Good cookies though.

For some 40 years, this country has known, discussed, and even threatened to act upon our growing addiction to oil consumption. Tree-huggers, eco-terrorists, and semi-elected presidents like Al Gore have rattled their Lorax ("I speak for the trees!") sabres about this energy problem over the years. Many politicians and even some titans of industry have spoken plainly about this problem for the past four decades. But we as a people have done little to nothing to effect any meaningful change. We want the cookies and we want to be able to drive whatever the hell kind of car we want to the store that's 1/2 a mile away because, dammit, we're Americans. And that's what we want to do. So there.

While I'm sure we will learn in great detail (as we are beginning to learn even now) how exactly and who precisely is responsible for the physical failure of BP's Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf, it will not change the very simple fact that the ultimate blame resides with us—American citizens. You and I and everyone we know.

We have and produce very little oil in this country yet we consume the largest share of the world's oil output. We always have—even Richard Nixon understood what a fool-hearty course this was for our country back in the early 1970s. Of all presidents one might imagine having any real vision for the environmental and energy future of this country, Nixon did more in his six years as President than any other U.S. has ever done. The Clean Air and Water Acts he signed became the basis for decades of environmental change, and it was Nixon who set up the now much-reviled by Republicans EPA. Nixon also dealt with the first major energy crisis this country faced, and you can blame him for such radical ideas as a 55 mph speed limit, suggesting 68-degrees for building heat, expanding daylight savings time—these were all measures Nixon acted upon in order to conserve energy and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. He even wanted a pollution-free car by 1980—what a dreamer!

But Nixon was the only president using his bully pulpit to try to make Americans understand the folly of this oil addiction. Gerald Ford did the same, and Jimmy Carter actually got Congress to pass some important legislation to start curtailing our oil addiction and to try and develop new, more natural forms of energy. Carter even put solar panels on the White House—and that was in the late 1970s!—but those were quickly removed when his successor Ronald Reagan took office.


And this is where I stopped, fully expecting to carry on with the post just as soon as I carved out enough time to finish it. In that interim, those wiley bastards at "The Daily Show" flat out pimped me. But they pimped me brilliantly. So with all due respect, Mr. Stewart . . .

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