I’ve spent a bit of time lately discussing the hysteria surrounding the environmental movement lately, and it occurs to me that I might be painting with too broad a brush. The whackos do have a few points — and I don’t mean the ones atop their heads, the ones that pinch their brains and compress them into twisted, perverted, unnatural shapes — and we all ought to do a few simple things to respect the environment.
First off, don’t buy a hybrid vehicle. Currently, they’re only economically feasible through hefty government subsidies, which means I’m helping you buy that Prius or Insight, and I’d rather not, thank you very much. Further, the long-term environmental costs of those batteries — both in the manufacture and ultimate disposal — are very high. Leave the hybrids to the early-adapters, the pious, the sanctimonious, and the professional environmentalists for now, until the real costs have been brought down and more of the bugs worked out.
Next, don’t recycle paper. As many people have pointed out (Penn and Teller the most entertainingly), recycled paper is actually considerably WORSE for the environment than “virgin” paper. The chemicals involved in treating used paper are far more noxious than those in making new paper, and further, paper companies plant more trees every year than they cut down — it’s simply a matter of enlightened self-interest.
Also, get Ted Kennedy out of office. In Massachusetts, a company (Cape Wind) wanted to build windmills in the ocean a ways off Cape Cod. But the bloated sot and a bunch of his gazillionaire elitist asshole buddies thought the windmills might somehow blight their view from their beachfront mansions. So they killed the project. (Maybe Teddy heard that the windmills were going to be made out of recycled Oldsmobiles or something.)
Get the best gas mileage you can. Buy the most efficient car that meets your needs. (In my case, my economic straits mean that I currently drive an SUV — an old, hand-me-down Explorer that I picked up for little more than a steal. I’d rather have something a bit more fuel-efficient, but the price was right on the Explorer — which Mr. Duckie and I have named “Mongo.”) But figure out just how much car you NEED (and yes, you can factor in SOME psychological factors) and don’t buy more than that.
Then, drive it sensibly. Drive gently and smoothly, to maximize your mileage. Don’t load up the car with crap you don’t need. Walk or take other transportation occasionally. Keep your tires inflated properly, change your oil and air filter regularly,
Use less electricity. For god’s sake, nearly everyone pays their own electric bill. Do you LIKE giving the utility more money? I sure as hell don’t.
OK, that’s enough for the personal. Now for the political.
Go nuclear. Apart from one famous incident that can safely be added to the hundred-million-plus body count of applied Communism, nuclear power has an astonishing safety record. Yes, we’re still working out all the kinks on disposing of the waste generated, but it’s nowhere near the crisis point — I have heard several theories, including putting them in copper barrels and mixing them into a cement, making bricks, and just stacking them in the desert somewhere.
Hell, France is one of the world’s biggest users of nuclear power in the world. If the FRENCH can run nuclear reactors without blowing themselves up, why the hell can’t we?
Cut back on foreign oil. Our dependency on foreign oil is a huge vulnerability on so many levels. It’s part of the reason we have to put up with so much bullshit from the Saudis. It’s part of the reason why we should give a rat’s ass about Iran — they can put a huge hurting on oil traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, where a huge chunk of our oil passes through. And it’s part of the reason why we don’t either ignore Hugo Chavez or pop him like a zit.
Of course, this means that we need to compensate for the loss of foreign oil. In the short term, we should drill more domestic oil. Right now, Cuba and other nations are going after oil off the coast of Florida — but we aren’t. And we have huge reserves in Alaska, but we can’t use THAT. Tightly-regulated development of a tiny fraction of the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve sends the tree-huggers and environweenies and other dipshits into hissy-fits — and not even the entertaining kind.
I have a rather radical suggestion: offer a tax cut — a very, very small one — on domestic oil vs. imported. As we see with Exxon Mobil, the economies of scale will make it very profitable for the biggest companies to invest in domestic production. Note that while Exxon Mobil is making record profits, they are also having record revenues — and their actual percentage of their profits is fairly low. And I’m a big believer in using tax policy as a carrot, and not a stick.
That’s good for the short term. Long-term, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Petroleum is one of the most amazing and versatile substances, used to make a huge plethora of materials, and most often we BURN it. That’s just stupid.
We’ve made great strides in cleaning up coal. When I was younger, “acid rain” was a very real thing here in New Hampshire. I saw a lot of acid-burned leaves on plants, where the sulfur in raindrops had seared or burned through leaves — sulfur that came from smokestacks in the Midwest. That’s largely gone by the wayside, and we New Englanders are grateful. But burning coal is still a pretty nasty process.
Partly thanks to our incredibly short-sighted nature and the suffocation of the space program, this is the only world we have. We need to take care of it — but in ways that actually achieve something, not in ways that make us feel good.
It won’t be easy. But doing things the easy way is a large part of the reason we’re in the situation we are now.