Women, energy, and voting

It was a pretty disappointing presidential campaign by the two major parties given that neither talked about my key issues — peak oil and global warming — with any passion or consistency. Both major parties seem content to avoid what are essentially the two toughest challenges today and going into the future.

The issue behind all issues

Yes, there’s been plenty of red meat from both sides on social issues such as abortion, contraception, gay marriage. And it’s important for women to stand up for their hard-fought reproductive freedoms and for social equality. But we also need to care about more than just traditional “women’s issues.”

More and more women lately have started to care about energy, because it’s the issue on which every other thing depends. As I’ve written before, nothing in the modern world happens without cheap, abundant fossil fuels. Yet those very same fossil fuels are what have caused the proliferation and acceleration of global warming.

Cheap fossil fuels not only drive our current economy, but they’re also a key reason that mounting debt is so unsustainable. Without cheap energy to grow the economy, we can’t pay back money lent as interest-based debt in the first place. That challenge is exponentially hampered when the energy needed to drive economy at a growth rate that outpaces debt is becoming scarcer and more costly.

These are pretty un-sexy ideas at first glance. Wonky and bogged down in details, energy and its connection to economic growth and servicing debt don’t appeal to the gut as much as, say, tax cuts for everyone and no budget cuts either! Never let it be said that Americans can’t have their cake and eat it, too. At least never say it during an election campaign, the next one of which begins tomorrow in what is now a never-ending campaign.

All that aside, the truth remains that, just as we’ve been told for two generations, fossil fuels are finite. Just take oil. Crude oil under frozen Arctic waters, deep in the Gulf of Mexico or off the U.S. East Coast, or trapped in rocks in the American West, is harder and therefore costlier to extract. And I don’t just mean it costs more money. But it takes harsher methods to extract and refine the oil or natural gas, and longer to transport, adding even more money cost along with a huge new environmental cost.

And forget the spotted owl here, if that’s what you want. This is a save-the-humans issue.

Who cares? And why should you?

Again, while I said that neither major political party did much about this during the campaign, only one of them said he explicitly doesn’t want to “slow the rise of the oceans or heal the planet.” That’s Mitt Romney. (My husband wrote a funny screed about this for Transition Voice.)

Romney was saying this in response to the oft-repeated lie that President Obama promised he would “slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.”

But the truth is Obama never said that. During his inaugural speech Obama said that in the future people would look back and see that now was the time that, “when we began to slow the rise of oceans and to heal the planet.”

“Beginning” that work, and achieving that work are two very different things. It took 100 years of relentlessly burning fossil fuels for the impacts to accumulate, and then to exponentially accumulate. Enacting policies and actions to “begin” to slow that likely means an equal amount of time to beat back those horrible effects.

Trying to do that in the face of an unpatriotic, obstructionist Congress that puts greed and profit above humanity and health is mighty difficult, and my husband’s essay touches on that, too.

Human health depends on a healthy environment since the primary economy of natural resources is the first economy on which the entire resulting paradigm depends. Yet, fighting the oil and coal companies that have a stranglehold on our government and our economy is no easy feat. No president can do it alone.

But at least Obama has tried, and at least he does care about moving to clean energy. While Romney and the rest of the GOP say they care about the so-called “all of the above” strategy for energy sources, in reality, they really only support fossil fuels and nukes. When it comes to solar and wind, Republicans fight against them every step of the way.

Well blow me down

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Americans started talking about global warming again. And when generators run on gasoline killed folks unfamiliar with their use in their homes, or when New Jersey residents stood in long lines for fuel, we began to talk again about access to fossil fuels, and began to remember how dependent we are on a ready supply of those fuels.

Now, coastal towns are talking about building dykes and sea walls in the vain hope of holding back the oceans. But, with cheap fossil fuels running out, and money and credit scarce, how will these walls be built? And what for? To drive belching cars behind ocean barriers while throwing our disposable plastic cups and bags back into those same oceans?

What will have changed? What has to change?

No, the likelihood is that sea-level rise will get worse, and most cities will have to retreat rather than fight the oceans. This is the world our children will inherit, and it looks scary.

On preparing for peak oil and global warming, unfortunately, the ship has sailed. What we have left is coping. And we can’t cope as a nation with a climate-science denier like Mitt Romney at the helm.

Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney the choice is clear. Obama wants clean energy in order to make adjustments in our lifestyle that will allow us the greatest flexibility going forward, even if those energy sources are not perfect or the equal in pure power that fossil fuels are.

Mitt Romney not only wants to keep using fossil fuels, but he wants to use more of them too, with an eye to profit for the 1% above all, human health and quality of life be damned.

Making progress

In politics perhaps more than anywhere else, the Perfect is the enemy of the Good. I wish Obama had done more to address global warming and peak oil. But he has done far more than some rabid lefties have given him credit for on energy conservation and renewables as they focus instead on just the kind of diversionary propaganda that vote suppressors want them to.

For example, issues where any president these days would do the same, such as ordering the use of military drones or increasing domestic spying, are just red herrings to distract us from the issues of climate and energy. The US national security apparatus might as well be the shadow government for all anyone in the White House or Congress can do — or will do — to buck it.

The bottom line remains that life here in the US goes on. And we have to deal with things far more immediate than overseas drone strikes. We have to deal with the air in front of our faces, and the ways we can work today. And that demands a president who at least cares and acts on clean energy, however small a change it makes.

That’s why I’m not only voting for Barack Obama today. I’m voting period. Because my issue is energy, and every woman’s issue should be energy. It touches everything we hold dear. And not paying attention to it means not really paying attention to what we say we hold dear.

VOTE!

–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List

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