Friday, July 18, 2008

David Brooks in the NY Times, writing about Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain

Bold added by the blogger... Brooks' words in italics:

Brooks is talking about Teddy Roosevelt's measured, fair-handed approach to governing. TR was enthusiastically pro-business (bully!) but would not tolerate business soiling the environment. Here's a link to the entire article, and the paragraphs that stuck out for me:

“The true function of the state as it interferes in social life,” Roosevelt wrote, “should be to make the chances of competition more even, not to abolish them.”

John McCain’s challenge is to recreate this model. He will never get as many cheers in Germany as Barack Obama, but for a century his family has embodied American heroism. He will never seem as young and forward-leaning as his opponent, but he did have his values formed in an age that people now look back to with respect.

The high point of his campaign, so far, has been his energy policy, which is comprehensive and bold, but does not try to turn us into a nation of bicyclists. It does not view America’s energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness.

While David Brooks is one of my favorite columnists, I do "view America's energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness." I see that many Americans will grab as much as their carts will hold - and fill their pockets as they rush down the aisles of life's supermarket.

It took four dollars per gallon to dull the shine of all that F250 and Yukon paint. Three-fifty wasn't enough. Everyone knows that the sourcing of dinosaur juice is more and more expensive and environmentally damaging. Everyone knows that we consume far more of everything than citizens of other nations.

No one wants to be the first to roll down a window, turn off the air conditioning.

Seems sorta sinful to me.


ceningolmo said...

Maynard...I'm not sure that your presumption that "everyone" knows we use too much, does damage too,...etc., is accurate.

While a cleaner environment is certainly a noble goal, I'm not sure that deciding energy policy based on that goal is prudent. There is still a lot of dissenting opinion regarding the topic of the effect of burning "dinosaur juice" on the environment.

The science, and scientists, is far less decided than popular media would have us believe.

There are plenty of people who are justifiably upset at the half-truths and misrepresentations passed off on our nation by the Bush administration in favor of military action. I wish those same people would show the same indignation for the falsehoods and half-truths passed off to us by Al Gore and his cohorts regarding environmental and energy policy.

Will Handsfield said...

It's too bad David Brooks chose bicycles to throw under the bus for his article. Luckily, economics will determine this change, not any politician or pundit.

In a nation beset by chronic obesity, I don't mourn the loss of $2 a gallon, and I yearn for $8.

Cycling advocates such as myself don't want to get rid of all cars, or force anyone onto a bike. We would just like to see the car culture expire from it's place as the dominant paradigm of America, to be supplanted by an active, physically fit nation with a safe place for walkers and cyclists.

Khal said...

Just finished an 8 July 2008 EOS (Transactions, American Geophysical Union) essay regarding the effects not only of adding CO2 to the atmosphere, but the basic issue of nine billion souls all aspiring to a high energy (i.e., high power density) lifestyle within a century. Written by Eric Chaisson, who has a joint appt. at Tufts and Harvard. According to Eric, even if we sequester CO2, the effects of humanity adding all these energy generating devices to the Earth's surface alone will eventually contribute to heating us up significantly (several deg. C) unless we base our energy culture on solar and its offspring (wind, tides, waves, etc). I'll have to bounce this article past my buddies at the Lab. As Chaisson says, this all depends on "assumptions", heh-heh...

But its all water under the bridge in the long run. Stellar aging causes increased luminosity with time. In a billion years or so, Ma Earth will be a baked, dry rock. Better eat dessert first.

Back to the present. I'd agree that we have not closed the book on the effects of fossil fuel buring on climate, but the uncertainty is not nearly as profound as the naysayers would have us believe, either. If someone told you there was even a fifty-fifty chance that there was an out of control drunk driver barreling around the next blind curve, one would probably slow down and prepare to take evasive action in prudence.

At any rate, fossil fuels are not inexhaustable; burning them up in Yukons and F250s ensures they will become even scarcer and more expensive with time, esp. as the Chinese and Indians ape our auto-centric culture while the Hubbert Curve slaloms down. So there are a lot of reasons to conserve even if one harbors doubts about anthropogenically enhanced climate change. Your grandkids, for example.

Concur with Will's comments in their entirety. I'm a little tired of cyclists being used as the paradigm-shift of us returning to the caves. Its a little disingenuous.

Thanks for reminding me to read that Op-Ed, Maynard. I've been meaning to do that. Might as well, since it is raining cats and dogs outside right now. Dogs are hiding under the desk due to the thunder, and I'm not in the mood to play lightning rod on the road bike.

Khal said...

Other than the bicyclist comment, good op-ed. Two quick comments.

One, the future will depend on preserving an advanced culture within sustainable energy parameters. That will undoubtedly require belt-tightening. It does not require a return to the caves or that everyone trade their car for a Breezer. Japan is about twice as energy-efficient as we are, I think, in terms of watts expended per GDP. Europe's CAFE standards are about twice ours. Perhaps it takes a V10 Triton to move a family fattened on SuperSize meals. That's the problem, not the solution.

Secondly, this election may more closely resemble the 1932 election of great governmental change rather than TR's (who I too admire): the election of FDR after the party of the Roaring Twenties and the collapse that began in 1929. Someone is going to have to pick up the pieces of an America without good jobs, health insurance, or trust in each other.

If four buck a gallon gas will do anything, perhaps it will finally make Joe Sixpack realize that his pocket has been picked. According to a recent Bill Moyers special, over the last few decades, almost all of the increase in worker productivity in the U.S. has gone into the top few percent. Its time for the CEOs and stockholders to get back in the trenches with the workforce, share the fruit of our labor more fairly, and get this country moving again. Without that trust, we are screwed.

Nick said...

Four bucks a gallon, fancy that. Over here we pay around $14 a gallon at current exchange rates. You lot don't know you're born. (And still we drive our cars - stoopid, huh?)

Khal said...

Its tougher in the Western U.S. Nick. Nearest airport is 160 km from me. A gallon of gas goes a lot farther in a small place like Netherlands or Oahu, which is where I used to live.

The good news is we are getting a regional train, and my town started up its own bus system last year and our bike transportation system is being built as I type.