Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unsustainable Consumption, Inexhaustible Stupidity

With gas prices once again in the $4 range in various regions of the U.S., I don't feel a bit sorry for American vehicle owners.  If big oil is gouging us, it's because decade after decade  we let it happen. Despite warnings starting almost 40 years ago beginning with the energy crises in 1973 and 1978 , we continue to drag our feet on making serious improvements  in gas mileage.  Instead we continue to waste fuel on SUV's , pick-up trucks,and other gas guzzlers and act as if we're entitled to cheap oil ("drill baby drill") instead of seeking alternative sources of energy and being more conservation-minded by demanding greater fuel efficiency in our vehicles.  In fact, according to oil tycoon and alternate fuel backer T. Boone Pickens America is the only country in the world without an energy plan

In England and France partly as the result of the high cost of fuel, even though there are numerous automobiles on the road. most of them are small and fuel efficient.  To encourage traffic reduction, there is also a congestion tax in London which private vehicles entering the center of city must pay. On the other hand, public transportation in Europe including inter and intra city rail service is extremely advanced.  The extensive and well connected subway and bus systems in London and Paris make getting around these cities without a private car a breeze.

But time and time again America has turned its back on or delayed programs to eliminate or reduce our oil addiction, such as through improvement of  our  own national public transportation network. Now  will this alternative along with other infrastructure upgrades wind up deferred indefinitely thanks to the Great Recession, and  Republicans' concomitant  refusal to pay their fair share of taxes that would support such projects?

Yet America's interstate highway system was developed in the 1950's under President Eisenhower, a Republican. At that time income tax rates for the wealthy were much higher than now, and fuel prices were much lower than at present. But the point is that there was a political will to get the job of national road construction completed. Why can't we invoke that same determination to build a national high-speed rail transit system now? Aside from the fact that other countries are  light years ahead  of America in this mode of transportation, consider the number of jobs such a project would create, whether conducted as a public or joint public-private endeavor. Moreover, the dreadful state of domestic airline service alone should be an incentive for Americans to push for this alternate and more efficient mode of transportation.

Endless dependence on a finite resource such as oil is an incredibly senseless policy. But even more irrational is for Americans,particularly the Republican right, to think that they have a god-given birthright to this source of energy just to satisfy their profligate lifestyle.  Further, that by using whatever means they want and wherever they want to extract it, regardless of environmental damage, this will some how magically extend the supply of oil for as long as they wish to pump it.

And typically, these people who are mostly  theists believe that their mythical deity bring a "Day of Reckoning" against others who don't embrace their supernatural religious fables. Yet they themselves refuse to accept the prospect  of a real world "Day of Reckoning" for misusing and exhausting our natural resources. Unfortunately, when the oil wells run dry and drilling sites have become ecological basket cases, they won't be the only ones affected.

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