Archive for the 'presidential race' Category

High Energy Prices: Good

I’m sipping my coffee at 6 a.m. at Stumptown in Southeast Portland (joy). The Oregonian’s front page shows an ocean of the 72,000 faces that turned out to see Barack Obama yesterday (yes, I voted for him, too) and the lower right corner story is: “Who loves high energy prices? The environment.”

The gist is basic economics: when price goes up, demand goes down. And we have got to demand (use) less energy, because it costs the earth heavily. I’ve seen oil fields and coal mines described as war zones, and that makes sense, because we’re violently wresting fossil fuels from the earth that have been millions of years in the making (hence the term fossil). Moreover, burning them causes global warming, because the atmosphere cannot quickly absorb millions of years worth of carbon dioxide and methane. High prices help us slow all this down. In fact, slowing down is crucial all around.

The big problem with high energy prices is that they can make the poor suffer, which of itself is immoral and unethical. If you can’t afford to get to work or heat your house, then you deserve a price break or assistance. (But you also should carpool!) We need a more progressive tax system altogether, and those who have enough need to just voluntarily share more with those who don’t have enough. My household gives about 5% of our net income to philanthropy, but I think we can and should increase that.

If the earth loves high energy prices, let’s get it straight that we are part of the earth, too. Would we put a rock-bottom price on our own lives? No; our civilization is built on valuing human life. Because our fate rises and falls with the earth’s fate, we have to put a high price on energy and use it as the incredibly costly stuff that it actually is.

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Hillary and the Concept of Legal And Rare

I’m glad that Hillary Clinton is back in the presidential race. While I wish she would mount a a truly appropriate response to global warming, I respect the way she has reached across party lines in the past as a senator to help make abortion both legal and rare. (Repeated research has shown that is what most Americans would like abortion to be.)

Let’s run today with that concept of ‘both legal and rare’. It’s valuable and I like it. It encapsulates that there are lots of things in life that we want to have the freedom to do, but that are usually better left undone because they have a negative impact on society.

Here is a short list of things I’d like to see become legal yet truly rare within the next decade so that consumption starts aligning with the earth’s actual production of resources:

  • using disposable coffee cups instead of mugs
  • using fossil fuels for nonessential travel
  • eating meat from feedlot-raised animals
  • raising corn to feed engines instead of humans
  • using blowers instead of human energy to clear away leaves

What would you like to see become rare though legal? Coming up tomorrow: an on-the-ground post from rural Oregon as I travel out the Columbia Gorge.


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