Saturday, May 21, 2011

It is the best of times, it is the best of times

Today the Herald gave us another op-ed page entry lavishing praise on the fossil fuel industry and stating how absolutely essential it is to our economy and lives, which I believe is the accepted order for those priorities. It is hard to remember distinctions between these columns and letters as the continuous stream tends to all run together.

This one though did make the case that coal=good and renewable=bad because satellite pictures of coal power plants have around them parking lots with cars while wind turbines do not. Who can argue with that logic? How could you argue it - by noting the facts that there are more wind industry jobs than coal mining jobs and that only about 60,000 Americans (1 per 5000) working in coal power plant jobs? Then you would just open the door to the pivot that few jobs in coal is good because that helps keep it cheap, cheap, cheap as is so important.

Anyway, ordinarily such a letter would not so much register. But the next letter was another lamentation on the federal debt "asteroid" that faces the economy with an "extinction-level event". And this on the day of the latest Harold Camping Rapture prediction!

Since the world has not ended today, I decided this is the best time to be alive, so we should all soak it up, gloat, and relish it.

How can I conclude that? Easily. We can dismiss the past as a preferable time to live because obviously it is awful, at least up to the "good ol' days" we can remember, whenever those were.

Backward is worse, so what about forward in time? Society is utterly dependent on a foundation of energy from fossil fuels, as so many commentators have insisted. Since that foundation will only last another few decades to few decades plus a century, any time beyond that will be terrible.

I know that virtually half the American political spectrum simply reflexively disregards climate science, but indeed human activities are driving climate change, and this will have negative results.

The debt problem can be considered an anti-problem, i.e., a good thing for us. Think about it - we are living beyond our means, which equals benefit. Taking more than we deserve is good for us, right? Free money. Despite the gnashing of teeth and wailing about how big a problem it is, who thinks we are actually going to do anything serious about the debt? Blowing off climate science correlates very highly with refusal to even consider increasing revenue through any higher tax rates. Then on the other hand, what would end up getting cut to balance the ledger? Quite simply, there is no good reason to expect we are actually going to pay the deficit spending piper. So win-win!

Since we are not going to divert that debt asteroid, it might end up hitting us. But that will be later! It is the same story with the double-doozy of no longer having cheap fossil fuels and dealing with the environmental disruption from all the earlier burning of them. Sure, you can say it is already starting to hit the fan with oil prices and warming we have already seen. But, it is not going to get really bad until the future.

We are in the sweet spot right now. In a world of "I got mine", we are set here in 2011. Let the poor saps in 2111 pull themselves up by their bootstraps and solve whatever problems they may face if they can no longer sweep them under the rug. If they wanted things better they should have been smarter, worked harder, or whatever to be alive now.

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