By Russell Buckley
March 13, 2012 (La Mesa)—Okay-- maybe a hokey title, but I hope it makes my point - which is that our society seems to be uncritically enamored with all things declared to be green.
I number myself among the large majority who care about the earth. I strongly applaud efforts to clean-up polluted rivers and eliminate acid rain and make cars more fuel-efficient. I recycle and do what else I can to reduce waste and to keep my footprint small. I even air-dry my clothes. I consider myself an environmentalist.
But I am skeptical about one aspect of environmentalism - our costly efforts to stop global warming. It seems clear that there has been some warming of the earth since the beginning of the industrial age. But the causes of the warming; the accuracy of forecasts of the rate at which it will continue; how much we can do to prevent it, and what consequences we can expect, are much less clear. The enormous amounts of money involved in "going green" makes me all the more leery.
I remember watching Mr. Gore's movie, Inconvenient Truth. It is filled with dramatic predictions about hurricanes and glaciers and sea level rise that, based on subsequent events, seem over the top. The depiction of the destruction that would result from a soon to be expected 20 feet rise in sea levels especially so. Even the IPCC is predicting a sea level rise of only a fraction of that amount. Mr. Gore has made hundreds of millions of dollars from the green movement and will likely make many more as we obediently react to the scare he helped create. He is by no means the only one to profit mightily from the rush to reduce the amount of CO2 we produce.
Think about the ethanol fiasco. An enormously expensive process of subsidies and mandates was put in place to force the use of ethanol as a replacement for gasoline. After further analysis, it was discovered that making the ethanol actually used more energy than the fuel it replaced, and that because so much corn went into its production, the cost of food increased and the supply available for eating was limited. Mercifully the subsidies have finally been removed - but not the mandates.
The movement is infested with crony capitalism and inefficiencies as the Government elects to go where venture capitalists fear to tread. Think about fiascoes such as Solyndra, that wasted over one-half billion of the $80 billion in borrowed stimulus money devoted to things "green", and insider deals such as Solar Reserves, (A February 14th article in the Washington Post documented the disturbing extent of the problem.) and the needless subsidization of $7,000 per car for the high priced Volt whose average purchaser makes more than $170,000 annually. Finally, there is the effort by non-industrialized countries to "persuade" industrialized countries to pay-up for their global warming sins.
The green movement is also fueled by a small but well funded group of "true believers" whose extremism was on full display with the recent decision to block the Keystone pipeline, even though: (1) It will have no bearing on greenhouse gasses - none whatsoever! The oil will be used - if not here than in another country most likely not as considerate of the environment as we are (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/say-yes-to-canadian-oil-sands/2011/08). (2) It is a truly "shovel ready" project that will create thousands of well paying jobs at a time when they are sorely needed - at almost no cost to the government! (3) It was exhaustively studied for over three years by the State Department and no reason not to proceed was found. Ten other Departments have approved it. (4) It will help achieve the goal of every Republican and Democrat administration in recent memory - independence from oil controlled by unfriendly nations (Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran). Yet, the President, at the urging of the moneyed Green lobby, has repeatedly blocked building it.
Another troubling aspect of the rush to stem global warming is that the source for most of the U.N data about the climate, University of East Anglia, was caught withholding information and seemingly trying to influence conclusions rather than just report what is happening. They are supposed to be scientists, not politicians. Let the facts speak for themselves.
We in California have decided to spend a great deal of money to reduce the amount of CO2 produced here. We have legislated cleaner burning and more costly gasoline than the rest of the country - a penalty to all gas users. We have passed a California only Cap and Trade law that will penalize our business. We have allocated over $100 billion to high-speed rail that virtually no one believes will come close to supporting itself. All of that without an estimate of how much each will reduce CO2 levels and global warming. Don't we deserve to know how much difference each of these enormously expensive undertakings will make before we commit to them?
Warming has taken place. Clearly we must continue to do research to increase our understanding of the environment and the causes of the warming. But until some of the questions posed earlier are better answered - and a reasonable forecast of benefits to be had from the expensive and disruptive measures being taken are available - we need to slow down.
I will continue to be an advocate for things green that make sense. I will continue to pay attention to the global warming issue. But I am not lending my support for costly and inconvenient lifestyle changes, made under the stampede to halt global warming, until the situation is better understood and articulated to the public. All that is declared green is not gold!
The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not represent the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial, contact email@example.com.