Lost in the noise over the Enron Debacle, in the rumblings of the war, in the Cheney Energy Team Scandal, in the critical Capital Hill Debates over national Energy Policy, is this: The President has still not heard from Advocates of Sustainable Energy. They were kept from speaking to Vice President Cheney to any great extent. In a way "plausible deniability" has been preserved for President Bush on Renewable Energy ideas: he has seldom heard accurate discussion of them.
Yet, the President is arguing that the Senate must approve his energy proposals, as though he is a fully informed advocate. It would be nice if the President would seek out some belated and improved advice on sustainable energy technologies and businesses. We can admire a President's willingness to delegate research tasks and in seeking advice rather than trying to become an expert in everything on his own, but he has a responsibility to sense bad advice when he gets it and to act to correct that situation. Perhaps another of his financial backers, the head of Greenmountain Energy, would be a good place to start in seeking to understand the world of Sustainable Energy Technologies. A lot is at stake including some victories in the War On Terrorism.
The President does appear to have done this, but only somewhat. He has shifted his rhetoric a little, talking about hybrid vehicles, allowing for such as the Enova Systems entrepeneurs to have his ear a litttle, and he seems inclined even to offer some tax incentives for purchase of hybrid vehicles and other sustainable technologies, if only he can be allowed to authorize drilling for fossil fuels in Alaska and elsewhere. It's not enough...a bit little a bit late...but it's something.
I don't care to spend any time at all examining the names of folks with whom Mr. Cheney met. It is not at all news that he excluded all but fossil-fuel folks from most of his consulting... Activists have known this for a year. It was a slap in the face to the American Voters who deserve the best possible energy policy, but it is probably not illegal. The scandal is in the poor quality of Vice President Cheney's plan and in the thinking that led to this poor quality. He should have understood that the 300 million Americans who employ him need him to do more than to meet exclusively with his former industrial colleagues. Those colleagues apparently did not know everything about good energy policy. At a time when we are fighting a war against those funded by our oil dollars, and when we are in danger of behing held partly responsible for global-warming-damages, we are still not listening to all possible solutions to our challenges.
If President Bush does wish to change and alter and move forward with his energy proposals, then we should honor his willingness to learn. I do think some of President Bush's improved rhetoric does demonstrate some willingness to acknowledge the reality of our energy dependency predicament, even if this goes against some of his previous positions, and I applaud him for being willing to change and grow his views. This is a good quality in any person and any political leader. It is obvious that the President and his advisers, nearly all of whom previously sneered at or disrespected Alternative Energy ideas, sort of seeing them as a plot of Liberal anti-productive stupidity, have really been trying to modify their points of view a little, trying to incorporate better alternative energy ideas as part of their energy policy. They're still not doing enough... not nearly. I encourage them to continue to look for all possible ways our energy policies can be improved, never mind past idealogical hostilities.
As an advocate of sustainable energy technologies and the rights of those who invent and do business in them, I seek to join President Bush in saying we do not have all the answers. We have all found ourselves together in a very tough emergency-situation spot and a priority should be placed on building the best energy policy and learning from the opposition, not in gloating about scandals. We could all wake up some morning to find that millions of Americans have been murdered by some terrible nuclear or bioweapon or some such. If this happens, we may not find the specific folks who did it, but we will know that the development of that weapon has been partly funded by our own dollars, sent to the Middle East and elsewhere in exchange for Oil. When you fight the bad guys by cutting off their money rather than just by brute force, I think this method can often have a surprising effectiveness in reducing the threat they pose. So we could really improve our performance in this war by addressing where our oil dollars are going and how we can change that.
In the face of the threat of oil-dollar-funded terrorist incidents, opponents of Arctic drilling need to consider if protecting the Arctic's beauty and Animal life is a sufficient reason to refuse to eschew so much domestically producible energy. Likewise Vice President Cheney, President Bush and their advisors need to do much much more to address their heretofore outrageous bald-faced shunning of sustainable energy concepts and suggestions. Best, I think, if we address all these issues right now, rather than waiting for an oil-dollar-funded terrorist incident of terrible proportions to wake us up to the severity of this situation. Terrible tragedies may still occur in this stunning war, but if they do at least let us be able to say that we did everything possible, with all possible alacrity (however much our system at times does not allow for alacrity). It's been five months since 9-11 and most of the important Energy Policy issues have not been decided or acted upon or in some cases even mentioned.
In the case of our Present War considerations, many of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudi. Why are we not paying attention to this? The Saudis, who have somehow in the past been seen as sort of the "good" guys amongst the Arab OPEC countries, have not been able to keep many of their own from terrorist sympathies and activities. They can make some amends by playing a much more productive role in the Peace Process. If they want to pay us back for the terrible role some of their citizens have played, then they should stop playing their evil and stupid games with the Palestinians, deliberately and shamefully allowing the situation to fester and gladly watching more Palestinians and Isrealis die every year. Why is the U.S. always the only rational well-intended participant in the peace process? Let the Saudis and the Europeans and others once and for all find a peace solution that is not a pretext for continuing the War On Israel. Who gives a damn, at this point, if it was right or not to create Israel? Let the Saudis get off of their fat complacent royal behinds, enriched by the wealth we have paid them and by (I'm told by one essay) their theft of oil operations we originally set up, sit down and champion those elements of the Palestinian demands that are not completely out-of-line and let's get this done. What are they waiting for? The Saudis have a lot to answer for lately. The least they could do is get their acts in gear so as to cease the flow of weapons to the Palestinians and end the Palestinian-Israeli War. I guess I'm glad the Saudi Prince is talking about "recognizing" Israel's right to exist in "exchange" for pulling back to 1967 borders. He needs to do a lot more than that if he really wants his nation's actions in this crisis to go down as honorable.
To return to my initial topic, also lost in the noise of the Enron Debacle has been the setback suffered by advocates of Free Market Philosophies. Enron had been held up as a paragon of Free Marketeering. In retrospect this always seemed a bit odd because they were not really that productive. In the battles of California it was, partly, the advocates of supposedly free markets (FERC and the companies like Enron) who essentially sneered in response to the desperate calls by 30 million Californians and dozens of millions of other Western States folks for some relief from a deregulation plan gone awry. (I think the California situation was more complex than any simple answer or viewpoint, so I think this is only part of the way to look at it.) Are we now to conclude that Enron represents the best that free market advocates and philosophers can offer?
They're not, but we'll have to endure some of this as a setback because of the extent to which free market advocates have allowed the Enrons of this world to hide in the skirts of free market advocacy.... a lesson I think in not allowing any company to play the "go-free-markets" game as a matter of momentary business and philosophic expediency. The Detroit Auto Companies are also playing this game, and how dare they? If they need protectionist measures, then fine, but they have no right simply to refuse to make better mileage vehicles for decades (disrespecting some customer demand, which is not the behaviour of a Free Market Participant, and which has unfortunately led to many Americans having to seek out foreign vehicles even though they might have wished to drive American-Made vehicles from American companies) and then cry that they cannot catch up to the competition, or that they have lost market share or that they are only being responsive to consumer demand like any competitive company. Their responsiveness to consumer demand has been mixed, and they have at times behaved as though they're more beholden to oil companies' monopolization of transportation fuel markets than to consumer demand.
The corruption of free market political philosophy concepts has some background in the Reagan years. President Reagan spoke particularly strongly of "Free Trade" in reference to issues foreign commerce, but seldom if ever spoke of "Free Trade" within the borders of the U.S. In my opinion, Free Trade and Free Markets are more properly concepts for Domestic Political Philosophy than for International Relations. At the least, foreign trade should be fair as well as free, and we often do not have that.
If it's absolutely necessary here or there for the government to impose a restriction or tariff, perhaps in response to unfair foreign restrictions, hidden or overt, or as an attempt to address the enslavement of folks who are forced to make goods for our markets, then I think we might consider taking such actions. It is perhaps not an abrogation of the concepts of Free Trade, as President Reagan would have had us believe, to impose an occasional restraint on importation of goods, if there is some important extenuating circumstance. More importantly, it is more certainly a restraint of Free Trade to impose restrictions on Trade within our own borders, between productive consenting Americans who are in no violation of anyone's rights. We Americans should be able to trade freely with each other within our own borders.
President Reagan's needless escalation of the War On Drugs, in which he took previously somewhat dormant laws and declared that Americans should "Just Say No" (as though he or any President has the right to tell us how we may not trade freely amongst ourselves) was not an unconnected thing. It has been obvious for twenty years that the Drug Wars has been a pretext for waging a war on the domestic rights of free trade of the American people... on their right to own property (even drugs) and to trade freely and consensually with each other. I am not certain, but I suppose there might be arguments for a government of a free society being able to regulate trade in addictive materials or materials that can be used as weapons. Nevertheless, Prohibition, as it is presently set up, seems to me to be a violation of Free Market Principles.
The matter was made much worse with the Drug Property Seizure law which made even more clear that Drug Laws would be used as a pretext for the direct abrogation of Constitutional Property Rights (if the Constiution provides for property rights... it should but I'm not sure it does so consistently). Drug use and purchase and production and sale, it was assumed, was so obviously "terrible" behaviour that normal American rights to regulate one's own behaviour did not apply. Anyone educated in the Constitution, at all, could see right through this fascist point of view, but still it was hard to stem the tide once a President and his minions have decided they have the right to start eliminating rights, selectively enforcing laws, expropriating property without trial, etc. (I don't recall if that Law occurred under President Reagan or President Bush).
Sometimes when laws are enforced selectively, this is a clue as to their injustice, in my view. The drug laws have always been an example of this. Rich folks go to rehab centers while poor folks go to prison. Users are sympathized with while dealers are assumed evil, even though both have been involved in the trading of drugs and have knowledge of the other's involvement. What's the difference? One could argue that the persecution of the Entrepeneur (the Dealer) rather than the self-destructive miscreant (the user) was not an accident and was meant to persecute the one with the more-productive leanings.
None of this should be that relevant to sustainable energy advocacy or the war on Terror, but under the present government it has become much more directly relevant: This month the Federal Government has been sponsoring some ads that are telling us of how Drug Use by Americans supports terrorism. Indeed, there is some truth to this. We have exported our Drug War ideas to such nations as Columbia and Mexico and Afghanistan. Violent fiends who thrive in artificial black markets have done well and those nations have been hobbled by drug problems caused largely by the nauseating hypocrisy of Americans insisting that other nations follow our drug laws but then so nastily demanding Coke, Marijuana, Heroin, etc. that we also continue to sustain other nations' drug barons. Not only has the black market in drugs, artificially created by the anti-free-market policies of supposed free-market proponents in the United States, been a boon to villains overseas, but unfortunately that now means there is some truth to the claim that those villains are supported by American drug dollars. And I guess some connection has been made between South American and Asian Drug Dollars and business activities of the present terrorists who are plagueing us.
There are many things I'm proud of as an American. One of the things that has been a terrible shame, though, has been our outrageous exportation of this violent drug war to already-impoverished put-upon nations and people who are seeking only to satisfy the black market habits of spoiled rich Americans. Just as Al Capone rose to affluence in the alcohol prohibition years in Chicago, so too violent and evil drug cartels have risen to prominence in such poorer nations as Mexico and Columbia, largely because we Americans have decreed that drugs should be dealt with by a black-market approach. Shouldn't we Americans not export such problems? Shouldn't we be ashamed of the violence and poverty that we have exported to such nations? I must agree with the notion that American drug-users who buy drugs must admit that some of their money is now going to support violence, but is this solved by continuing the drug war or ending the black market approach which abrogates rights and encourages the rise of the Al Capones of the world? It would be nice if we could acknowledge that while drug use may be a disgusting habit, worse yet is throwing away rights of domestic free trade, and that is what we are doing with the Drug War. I've seen the recent resurgence of the busts and the confiscation of drugs, and it doesn't make me unhappy in the immediate sense of stopping this insanity and the digsusting use of drugs, but isn't there an important question here of whether it mightn't be better to also reconsider ending the black markets? I am somewhat undecided on some of the issues here. For example, I've seen some Conservatives argue that the drug war must be prosecuted or abandoned, and this makes an odd sense to me.... either drug trade and possession is illegal (and how can you use them unless you have traded and possessed them) or it is not. But there has been precious little discussion of the assault on free-trade principles inherent to the Drug Wars, and on the rights of citizens of other countries whose lives have been ripped apart by our Drug War problems.
While we lecture American drug addicts, we have said little or nothing to oil addicts. All Americans (and Japanese and others) are supporting terrorism, however unwillingly, each time they buy any oil. It is, obviously, the oil producers who have helped to support terrorism, moreso than any drug cartel has ever done, and it is our incurable addiction to their product that is one of the things we urgently need to address.
I do not mean to suggest that all foreign trade is bad, or that the oil business was somehow inherently wrong (environmentally outdated maybe). Reducing our oil consumption is not a cure-all in a war that asks us to confront many challenges on different levels including on the most deep philosophic levels. But reducing our consumption of Saudi and other imported oil would help, even if it is thirty years later than we should have done. Then we can also assess how on Earth the greatest nation in history became dependent on insane terrorists for its lifeblood energy flow, and did absolutely nothing about this for decade after decade after decade.
Better that the government should run ads on that point, and work for lessening dependency on importation of foreign oil (perhaps by taxing it), then that they should focus solely on the support of terrorism lent when an American buys drugs.
Another unfortunate perversion of Free Market Concepts which had its roots in the Reagan years and continues to this day is the concept of "Tax Cuts" spurring growth. Under President Reagan, our government spent itself nearly into oblivion and chose to do this running deficits rather than taxing us to pay the expenses. We were told that we were getting "Tax Cuts" and superficially, immediately, we were... many Americans experienced somewhat lowered taxes in the short run. But a Government running a deficit is borrowing against its future, and since a government's only real source of revenues is taxes, now or in the future, choosing to give tax breaks now and run concurrent deficits means the government is making a firm commitment to raise overall tax revenues in the future. This was obvious in the years of President Reagan and it is obvious now. It is insulting to hear President Bush and others talk about tax breaks when we know, and they know, that until our debt is paid and our deficits are zero, a tax break now is a commitment to defer our obligations to future generations, making matters worse and not better.
Lost also in the noise lately is that we Californians and others almost had a shot at free trade in our energy purchases last year, and our brief experience demonstrated incontrovertibly that consumers will easily choose renewable energy, if given the choice of simply switching providers, and we are even willing to pay more for it. So often it is said that we homeowners are not willing to do what it takes to use solar and other sustainable technologies, but this is a lie. We are simply reluctant as homeowners to spend hundreds of man-hours becoming experts in a new technology (putting solar on our roofs and such). If given an easier choice which shows more respect for our time and money, we are more than willing to do our part. So many of those briefly able to buy renewable energy were returned to the anti-sustainable-energy utilities (including this author), and President Bush hasn't mentioned this important issue that I've heard (though I may have missed it). He ought to: the idea can't be kept down that much longer, and as a politician and an energy policy maker, he should try to be on the side of an idea that is going to help very greatly improve our energy situation. All he needs to do is have his Energy Policy Team talk more to such folks as Green Mountain Energy and other respected Sustainable Energy Producers, if the President and his Team dare do so.
firstname.lastname@example.org Portions of this essay may have been dictated rather than typed, because my hands have suffered such severe nerve damage from music and computer keyboards over the years that I am now trying to use voice dictation softare. To learn more about how you can address this issue of personal health, here is one link.