Dr. Steven A. Leibo is a professor of International History & Politics
at the Sage Colleges
I am not an economist but I do know that all this talk about what the new energy bill will cost is absurd. Sure, I understand that the congressional budget office tells us it will only cost about as much as a postage stamp a day while right wing scare mongers are claiming it will be a few thousand dollars a year.
But the only thing I am certain of is that discussion of costs is wrong. Rebalancing our energy structure away from fossil fuels is not about costs. It is about savings. And I am not just getting technical here;
merely reminding folks that federal rules regarding pending legislation do not allow potential savings to be included in financial impact statements – a particularly silly rule when dealing with energy issues.
After all having America use energy more efficiently will save the country money in exactly the same way slowing down on the highway, lowering and raising summer and winter thermostat settings save
individuals money. But, I don’t mean just those most obvious savings. I mean the savings we get when we start avoiding wars inspired by our addiction to fossil fuels; savings us from the sort of horror our
obsession with the oil of the Persian Gulf has caused us over the last half century.
And in the future – saving us from the bloodshed of fossil fuel energy wars because no matter what you have heard about America’s potential new oil fields there is simply not enough left to avoid dangerous fossil fuel competition in the future with nations from India to China.
But those savings aren’t the only savings I have in mind because in this new century it’s not just individual countries competing for energy that are the problem. It’s humanities prolific use of fossil fuels that is
changing the climate, forcing the rising of waters, and increasing drought; the result of the thickening of the green house gas belt around the planet that is dangerously pressuring available water, food
and land resources. The very things people have always fought over.
But that is only part of the savings I am thinking about. We also face the very real possibility of another nine eleven but the next time inspired by infinitely more motivated terrorists. After all why did nine
eleven happen? Because a few jihadists decided they did not like American policy in places from Saudi Arabia, to Palestine and Egypt.
But think about it. This time the question is not just our impact on relatively limited territories in the Middle East, but the impact of America’s energy behavior on the entire planet. Because the simple
fact is the United States is the primary cause of what is happening climatically.
Sure we did not do it on purpose. But given the facts of America, its size and the century it has been industrialized plus the length of time green house gases like CO2 remain in the atmosphere the fact remains
that the biggest cause of the planetary climate change which is threatening global society is the United States.
And if America does not absolutely commit ourselves over the next few months to leading this energy transition by passing the clean energy bill in the senate and showing up at the Copenhagen climate talks in December with a profoundly clean energy agenda. We will most likely arouse a level of anti-Americanism and potential terrorism that will make nine eleven look like a joke.
Which is yet another reason why organizations throughout America are planning over the next few months to put thousands of voters into the streets to convince our leaders to take action; literally thousands of people taking part in activities from MoveOn.org’s July 23 national day of action to 350.org’s October 24th program to pressure politicians to The Climate Project’s national educational campaign to spread the knowledge necessary to understand this complicated climatic challenge.
All of them dedicated to finally making some real energy savings.