Here I am at the end of two weeks of snow days (12 February 2011), wondering what I’m going to do to get my students caught up. I always have to remember that since I’m not teaching brain surgery, no one will die from the misapplication of English writing and interpretation. (If only comma errors were fatal!) I did listen to a discussion on NPR about whether our current weather is the result of climate change or not. There is the possibility that the warming of the Arctic has pushed the jet stream south. On the other hand, a few wacky winters does not a trend make.
I do not want to start a debate about climate change. I’ve spent enough of my life arguing with people who deny the conclusions of science, and this is not the time. What I do want to know is why so many Republicans oppose conservation and clean energy.
One answer is obvious. Big Oil pays for the Republican party. (Something else big pays for the Democrats, so I’m not taking sides here.) Political values are for sale. We’ve known this for a long time. I do wonder how politicians can declare themselves to be conservatives who love their country, while at the same time they work hard to give aid and comfort to foreign powers and leave America vulnerable.
The argument that I am making here is that we don’t have to accept the science of climate change to support clean energy. Look at two supposed Republican values: conservatism and self reliance. On those two grounds, the right wing of American politics ought to be in the lead when it comes to producing energy in a renewable manner.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin and others proposed that we “drill, baby, drill.” This ignores the fact that America hit its oil peak years ago. Yes, we may find new sources within our borders, but we have only so much, and as we saw last summer, the places where it’s located are increasingly remote. A similar suggestion is to use the coal that we have, but here again, that’s a finite resource. We have a lot, but only so much. (Note that I’m saying nothing about the carbon dioxide that would be produced from burning coal.)
By contrast, wind and solar power are conservative sources. Once the inital costs are paid, the only expense for years to come is maintenance. No money flows to dangerous regions of the world (such as those vicious Canadians). There’s nothing to clean up and nothing to use up. That sounds like the essence of conservatism.
Readers of my articles will know that I lean toward libertarianism, but I do recognize that holding a society together requires some collective action. I prefer that such action be the least possible that achieves what we need. In this case, if as a country we were to commit to changing over our energy production to renewable kinds, we could give ourselves a more secure future. (Please don’t quibble about how much of our total energy needs we could produce that way until we actually cover our big buildings with solar panels–even the current models–and put turbines everywhere the wind blows.) Whenever you hear a conservative oppose clean energy, ask that person to be true to conservative values. There is no good reason to oppose it.