Sunday, December 2, 2012

What goes around, comes around!

It seems, from what I read on the interwebs, that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is asking for federal aid to mitigate the effects of "warming-induced" drought on Mississippi River barge traffic (which carries a lot of petroleum products, of course).  Without that help, they say they'll have to use more expensive transportation methods.

The notion that the current drought has been caused by, or deepened by the effects of global warming is pretty arguable, as I've noted in a recent blog.  However, it doesn't take a genius to see a connection between rising temperatures and the likelihood of drought - the physical linkage is much more obvious than between, say, increasing temperatures and tornado/hurricane frequencies or intensities.  But let's put aside for the moment the issue of whether or not the current global warming trend (which is, according to climate scientists, directly attributable to greenhouse gas emissions from burning of fossil fuels) has "induced" the current drought.

The irony is  that the API has been, and is continuing to be, a force for the "business as usual" crowd who choose to deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming and to work to prevent any activity that could wean us from our dependence on fossil fuels - see here for the API's stand on renewable energy research.  It would seem that corporate America (especially the petroleum industry and its partners) is not interested in seeing us give up our addiction to fossil fuels any time soon.  Imagine that!!  What a surprise!!  Nevertheless, they now want to be bailed out by the government so they won't have to pass the increased cost of transportation of their products on to the American public, who no doubt will howl in protest over having to pay more at the pump! Oh yes, make no mistake, they will pass on that added cost, rest assured.  And all of us will have to ante up. 

Of course, the rich corporate CEOs will continue to live the good life, and likely will escape having to pay most of the tax burden their policies will force on us inevitably.  They'll probably get bonuses for their mismanagement!

Let me try to explain something ... fossil petroleum products of all sorts (oil, coal, natural gas) are only available in finite quantities.  They cannot last forever.  That's an inescapable consequence of their finite quantity.  If our rate of consumption is some very tiny fraction of what is a very large quantity, then we might anticipate continuing to consume for a long time to come.  Of course, this would only be delaying the inevitable time when we eventually will have consumed almost all of that resource.  This is precisely what we're doing, notably beginning in the 20th century, when our transportation and energy production infrastructure came to be almost exclusively dominated by fossil fuel use.  And that is continuing to contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases entirely (not very likely at any time soon!), those gases already in the atmosphere will continue to add to a global temperature rise for many years to come!

At the beginning of the 20th century, our consumption rate was small and the resource appeared to be vast.  As our rate of consumption increased (more cars, more highways, less use of rail, etc.), what may have looked at the time as an almost inexhaustible resource began dwindling rapidly.  World wars (and lesser ones) proved to be greedy consumers of fossil fuels.  We are now past (or nearly so, depending on to whom you listen) the peak worldwide production of oil.  Its price is inevitably going to increase as the supply declines.  China is exploding as a first world consumer, as is India.  All nations aspiring to first world status are simply adding billions of consumers of what must now be seen as a dwindling, very much finite resource.

As a species and as a nation, we've squandered the natural resource of fossil fuel, which could have been used more wisely to put us on a path toward renewable energy in the future.  But American corporations dominate American politics in today's world, and they've lined up almost uniformly in the "business as usual" camp, seeking to block any efforts to wean us from our addiction to fossil fuel.  Among other things, this has widened the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in our society.  Corporate CEOs reward themselves with huge bonuses and live in luxurious splendor, even as the middle class is drifting toward poverty and the economy is tilting toward an ultimate collapse - and the global climate is warming.  Combined with the dwindling fossil fuel resources and associated energy cost increases, it's possible to foresee an imminent complete collapse of the existing American lifestyle.  That would be one form of "solution" to our existing challenges.  The transition will be very ugly with human suffering ... can we  stick our heads into the sand and just pretend that all is grand (from Steppenwolf "The Ostrich")?

Anyone not growing their own food, making their own clothing, and living "off the grid" in the wild is contributing to the problem, of course - that includes yours truly.  But that doesn't negate the fact that some are more responsible for this mess than others.  Those who have opposed the findings and recommendations global climate science, those who have participated in the corporate domination of the American government to prevent almost all efforts to move us off ground zero toward independence from fossil fuel, those who have opposed government support for research into renewable energy ... they bear the lion's share of the guilt.  And now they have the monumental gall to ask the government to bail them out for a problem they have worked very hard to create!!

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