Damn Yankees

The scenario has risen again: the science and policy surrounding energy policy have had a hard time coming through. And so, the same question as before comes hard on its heels: a blend of scientists and policy makers are being listened to… but which ones? And why?

The long-standing logic of switching to zero-emission energy sources was written in a bill signed by President Bush (CNN) which included new nuclear power plants, and encouraged domestic coal, oil and natural gas production (ENS). (See NYTimes for good measure.)

Now, it’s a matter of patriotism.

The Yankee Ingenuity of yore was what inspired drawings of Uncle Sam and was fueled by a booming USA. Suffice it to say, this sentiment is still strong in the US, but with the last 20 years of technology specialization by foreign countries, there has been less and less dominance. Of course, dependency on foreign oil fits in here as well. But, so does keeping jobs domestic, and keeping jobs with longevity and security.

Thus, the mission of the Apollo Alliance has been one of a blend of environment and labour. A quick glance through their material (and having heard them speak at last summer’s Democratic National Convention and an energy conference) invokes patriotic pride. This is to say that it communicates through the right channel.

If coal miners are most concerned with their job security, then clean-burning coal turned into a competitive industry option will attract more attention for that reason, and less directly for reasons of environmental cleanliness. It’s a sustainable job either way, and both sides are excited for it. So too with wind and solar power gaining grants and therefore proposals from engineers and construction.

This is mimicked in the formation of the Nova Scotia Environment and Labour. Interestingly, it is next to impossible to navigate to anything mentioning energy science or policy, or greenhouse gas emissions. But the grouping of bodies is still wise for getting things done.

Back to the bill. There were criticism that came from all over the scope… The top Democrat on the Energy Committee, Sen. Jeff Bingham, praised the passage of the bill but said more must be done to tap the potential of renewable energy, address global warming and use less oil from overseas. Rep. Edward J. Markey said much of the same, highlighting the lack of boosts for renewables over fossil fuels, and called the bill “a historic failure.”

So for all the bill promised vis-à-vis a Stronger America, there was no help for tax incentives for renewable energy resources, a renewable electricity standard, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, reducing global warming, and installing a federal ban on MTBE. Anna Aurilio of U.S. PIRG doubted that the dependency and linkages to dirty sources and foreign sources of energy would be weakened by the bill.

With the Apollo Alliance, it is impossible to say whether or not there has been a mis-step. The Death of Environmentalism paper (see some background here) heralds the Alliance as a breakthrough of the ilk desperately needed to keep environmentalism from slipping into the mechanisms of science and society it is trying to re-define. With such attention to The Markets as the solution, and a host of proponents springing up to do combat with Market Tools, it is expected that such a group would gain so much applause and perform so well… they boast and attractive track record. TIME magazine runs articles like this one all the time, as does Newsweek and cohorts.

One hopes that the sentiment for Americana doesn’t blind people (like me a week or two ago) to fall in step with the Yankee Ingenuity spirit and disregard the poor oversights that bills like this one offer in spades.

2 Responses to “Damn Yankees”

  1. isabel says:

    Recently, GM and a few other car makers have decided to discontinue producing electric vehicles, claiming that the production was economically unsustainable. The companies recalled many of the vehicles that had been leased, leaving behind many disappointed consumers. Much of the focus of large auto companies has been towards gas-and-electric hybrid automobiles, which have been receiving a lot of hype and media attention. There are notable mileage limitations with solely battery powered vehicles and they require several hours worth of recharging. Additionally, while operation of the vehicle produces zero emissions, the power plants that produce the electricity used to power the battery are nowhere near zero emissions. Zero emission technology has a long way to go from here.