Peak oil and climate change: hold your nose and vote

Obama at debate

Many lefty voters feel ripped off that 2012 Real Obama didn’t live up to 2008 Fantasy Obama. Photo: SanFranAnnie.

At last night’s third and final presidential debate, we heard about horses and bayonets, nukes and drones, Israel and Iran and whether we should just give up on Pakistan. But, for the first time since 1988, we didn’t hear anything last night or in either of the two previous debates this year about climate change.

climate change in presidential debates graphic

Photo: The Other 98%.

As to energy, it came up much less in last night’s foreign policy debate than in the previous week’s debate on domestic issues, but anything said on energy was just as foolish.

For example, there was nary a word about oil, the reason that the world cares about the Middle East in the first place. And if Afghanistan is the longest war in America’s history, it’s also an oil war. But that didn’t come up last night either.

Both candidates did pledge their allegiance to drilling, but only Romney was shameless enough to promise “North American energy independence,” the first point of his pandering Five Point Plan. And, true to form, Romney found a way to mention bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra but said nothing about massive subsidies to Big Oil and Big Coal — showing his hostility to both solar power and to clean energy in general.

A plague on both your houses

“There’s a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that’s at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it,” wrote James Howard Kunstler just before the third debate. “By ‘at stake’ I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.”

I felt the same way last week when both candidates talked more about energy. Then, it turned out they had a lot in common: both candidates love oil, coal and natural gas and think that America should produce more fossil fuels.

And, surprise, they both wish gas prices were lower. But depressingly, they both act like the U.S. president can do something about it.

I wouldn’t blame anyone who cares about climate and peak oil and fears (or hopes) as Kunstler does, that the global financial system could collapse soon and bring down the rest of industrial civilization with it, for cursing both Obama and Romney, as Kunstler also does:

Mitt Romney represents all the forces that seek to pervert truth in banking, markets, trading, and commercial business. He made his fortune in a business of lethal arbitrage, hunting through the underbrush of American business like a poisonous snake, striking his victims in stealth and then consuming them. Barack Obama, lawyer and president, forgot that one of his duties is hunting snakes, and has allowed the garden of America to become overrun with snakes. There is even the pretty good chance that, if he loses this election, Mr. Obama will become one of those snakes himself.

Personally, I have no faith in either of them, and watching them pretend to battle in the trumped-up arena of “debate” makes me sick.

Lesser evil and all that

How tired are those of us who still vote of having to choose the guy who’ll merely step on our toes instead of the one who’s going to cut off our leg, as Rebecca Solnit so aptly put it recently?

At the same time, there’s no award for staying home on election day. No matter how much personal satisfaction it may give you to abstain, CNN won’t tabulate your non-vote in a special “Opt Out” category. Nor will they do a story on the trend, growing or not, of non-voters.

Rightly or wrongly, non-voters are the ultimate non-story.

So, if you think that staying home on election day will keep your hands clean, I ask you to think about what your abstinence really means.

“But I’m too busy on gardening and local activism to vote,” you might say. Horseshit, I reply. Voting comes only once or twice a year in most areas. So there’s plenty of time to do both.

I’m not saying that this election is any kind of contest between good and evil. The best I can say is that it’s between disastrous disaster and merely scare-the-crap-out-of-you disaster. And if you don’t vote, that won’t stop plenty of idiots from doing so. It’s just that your lack of voting will give voting idiots relatively more say in the matter.

Pick your poison

Parody poster about Romney energy plan

Obama was far too kind to coal and oil. But Romney would be much, much kinder to dirty energy. Image: Sierra Club.

Of course, there’s no reason for anyone who cares about peak oil, climate change or the house-of-cards economy to vote for a stuffed-shirt puppet of the plutocracy who is bought and paid for by Big Oil and the Koch Brothers like Mitt Romney.

And, while there’s very little reason for the aforementioned voter to push the digital button for Barack Obama, it’s also wrong to say that there’s no difference. Or, that it doesn’t matter.

There is a difference. And it does matter.

As a sometime political candidate myself, during the energy discussion last week, I knew well enough that I had to pull out my weasel-language translator to see what the candidates were really saying. It’s all about the nuance, as political consultants explain.

Aside from the obvious bullshit about gas prices and oil leases on federal lands, Obama’s language showed that he supports renewable energy and the environment, no matter how little. That’s true to his record. Whereas it’s equally clear that Romney supports the environment not at all. That’s arguably worse than his record as governor, but consistent with where the regressive GOP has wound up today.

And if arithmetic is not your strong suit, I should explain that there’s a big difference between a little and not at all.

Another nuance in last week’s debate: Romney mentioned Keystone XL, but Obama refused to bite. That’s not nothing.

Maybe it’s the difference between an F and a C-. Not a great choice — but a choice nonetheless.

And we’re all adult enough to know that no president elected today, whether as brave and loving as St. Francis or as honest and law-abiding as Socrates or as committed to good government as Confucius, could make much difference in our current hijacked national political system, complete with a grandstanding Congress, the Senate filibuster and a Supreme Court ready to nullify anything big a president might try to do (except, for some reason, Obamacare).

For those determined to make a protest vote, the Green Party’s Jill Stein is the obvious energy-smart choice for her support of conservation and renewables and serious action on climate.

Vote local

Actually, the real choice on November 6 will not be in the presidential race. Nor probably for your Congressman either. Where your vote will really count is in your local races.

As a local elected official myself, I am beginning to see just how much difference that un-sexy city councils and county boards can make. From zoning to real estate tax rates to school budgets to development and transportation plans, local governments make most of the decisions that affect your quality of life and the ability of your community to become more resilient in the face of peak oil and financial crisis.

Unless you’re enlisted in the army or invested in a defense contractor, it won’t make as much difference in your life whether the U.S. invades Iran as whether your city decides to invest its limited resources in building a new a bypass instead of beefing up the bus schedules.

“Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong,” as debate moderator Bob Schieffer’s mom used to say.

Be honest. does refusing to vote really make you feel more honest or virtuous? Or does it just make you feel small and weak?

— Erik Curren, Transition Voice

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    • says

      Investment advisor Casey’s “advice” on voting seems to relate mainly to his own delicate sensibilities. Isn’t not voting Lesser tantamount to supporting Greater Evil? But where there is a clear majority for Lesser or Greater, a “token effort” might possibly be a little more than token in due course.

  1. Lee Samelson says

    If the big oil plutocracy continues to have a death grip stranglehold on Washington after the election we might miss our last chance to avert a Peak Oil instigated economic implosion in time (given how close we are to peak oil).
    A transition to clean sustainable energy is an absolute prerequisite for the better world we envision. It will take at least come input of conventional petroleum resources in order to rapidly upscale, manufacture and transport the new cleaner sustainable systems. If the plutocratic establishment and their political enablers block the Transition agenda until we are too far down from Hubbert’s peak, then the numerous positive vision blueprints for a better world will be trapped like a bird in a cage forever unable to fly off the ground.

    This caterpillar of a civilization we have now would never be able to become a butterfly, and will instead die in its cocoon forever unfulfilled.

    Right now at this election time we are at an evolutionary crossroads where we can either go the way of the butterfly and transform or go the way of the caterpillar that dies in its cocoon forever unable to transform. Before a caterpillar goes into its cocoon it eats voraciously consuming all it can until it gets bloated, can no longer move very much and outgrows its skin. This resembles the corporate, military-industrial media induced perpetual economic growth with the wasteful, immature “use it all now and tomorrow is not a priority” ethos.
    The process that the caterpillar goes through is called chrysalis. At the beginning when the caterpillar weaves its cocoon, tiny cells called imaginal discs appear which contain the blueprint of the butterfly yet to come. Although it is a natural part of the caterpillar’s evolution, its immune system recognizes the imaginal disks as foreign and tries to destroy them. The imaginal disc cells are like new ideas that vibrate to a different frequency being snubbed by the powers that be. The caterpillars old immune system can be seen as the corporate media network resembling the marginalization of new ideas and concepts that carry the blueprint of the sustainable butterfly future or culture of Earth Community.

    The immune system of the caterpillar could be seen in whoever orders the police to use totalitarian indiscriminate arrest tactics nonviolent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

    The immune system of the caterpillar is most definitely seen in the political activity of the Koch brothers, the American Tradition Institute, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute, the US chamber of Commerce and many more. They are trying to strangle the emerging green energy economy while it is still in its crib acting to prevent the clean fantastic technologies of the better future from catching on to the market level.

    Because they line their pockets by owning a sprawling empire of oil refineries and pipelines they plot to trap us into their fossil fuel dependency as possible by denying us any job-creating clean energy alternatives for us to snap over to. On the down slope of peak oil, the resulting price spike would mean a caterpillar feast of windfall profits for the likes of the Koch brothers, but it would also mean nothing less than the rest of planetary civilization dying in its cocoon. If the Kochs and their ilk succeed then our planetary civilization will never be able to become a butterfly.

    The robotic automatons of their illegitimate authority are armies of grim reapers flying on broomsticks who are wearing the black robes of our stolen future appearing like Lord of Darkness in the scene in Fantasia “Night on Bald Mountain”. The political attack ads of the American Crossroads Super PAC are the immune system of the caterpillar throwing multi- million dollar entitlement tantrums. They are the inertia attempting to preserve the old ideas, memes and concepts at all costs even as they lead us to stagnation and possible death.
    The recent flurry of restrictions on voting rights and collective bargaining are also attempts to keep the imaginal cells at bay. How tragic would it be if the immune system of the caterpillar blocks the peak oil mitigation transition until it is too late and we miss our opportunity to transform into this higher societal stage?

    In the butterfly chrysalis narrative the imaginal cells are not deterred. The imaginal cells keep coming an increasing in numbers. They find each other, link up and form networks. The imaginal cells self-organize and differentiate. This is like in the 1960’s when we had all these new movements like the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, gay rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the peace movement, new spirituality movements, that attempted to offer us the new world of the butterfly. They have been attacked by the old caterpillar immune system as threats to the established order. The immune system knows how to be a caterpillar and wants to keep it that way. But at a critical point in chrysalis the new imaginal cell networks recognize each other and act as a wholly different organism along new organizational lines, the caterpillars old immune system begins to become overwhelmed and breaks down. The old caterpillar body begins to disintegrate into a nutritive soup to provide energy for the new butterfly body.

    We can deliberately influence our own destiny because given the possibility that the internet allows for dialogue of shared purpose. We now we have the unprecedented capacity to collectively free ourselves at last from to yoke dominator culture.

    Clean inexhaustible renewable energy would be the economic engine of a highly enlightened and advanced 21st century civilization. I want that highly enlightened and advanced 21st century civilization to happen. I want us to achieve a technologically advanced yet environmentally sustainable society that will be able to evolve and continue for many centuries. The last thing I want is to be thrown into a dark post-industrial Stone Age due to being blind sided by peak oil. Us who are alive today are among the generations in history to have the responsibility for saving the entire world. We have the fate of 4 billion years of evolution/ creation resting in our hands.

    The death grip stranglehold of the big oil plutocracy in this case is a specific reference to the House Republicans. In the past two years the House GOP has taken 315 votes against our environment with 57 Votes to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives and over 109 times for policies that follow the same pattern of exalting the interests of the oil and gas industry at the expense of practically everything else in existence from our environment, public health, and the taxpayer. Obama with the Democratic congress in 2009/2010 was not exactly the knight in shining armor riding on a white horse coming to rescue us from the peak oil Orwellian veil of silence. But for purposes of beyond the upcoming election it is safe to assume they will at least be a bit more open-minded, flexible and easier to work with on a million plus job-creating Apollo project green new deal stimulus renewable energy transition.

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