I hate to sound a sour note after a generally rousing Democratic Convention, but there's something that really stuck out and stuck in my craw in President Obama's otherwise inspiring speech:
You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.
We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.
Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.
We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.
Why, why, why did the president have to use American Enterprise Institute weasel words in his nomination speech? There is no such thing as clean coal, "clean coal" is a corporatist right-wing term that is as false as "job creators" and as cynical as "entitlement reform". Coal extraction is dangerous to workers and the environment, the burning of coal adds carbon and mercury to the atmosphere, and coal ash contains a variety of toxins (as if that's not bad enough ash disposal protocols are shoddy at best). To put it in vulgar terms, clean coal is as imaginary as petroleum-pissing unicorns and nuclear-powered rainbows.
This isn't the first time that President Obama pissed me off with the use of this term. The fossil fuel industry will always support his opponents, so why does he use their P.R.B.S. (insert Reince Priebus joke) terms?
Now, for the typical B.B.B.B. fossil fuel rant... Fossil fuels should be considered "startup capital" or "seed corn"- they are the energy source that allowed the wide-scale industrialization necessary for the development of alternative energy sources. Over thirty years ago, President Jimmy Carter warned the citizens of the U.S. of our profligate energy use, and the need to develop alternatives:
Tragically, nothing substantial was done in the intervening decades... we're blowing through the startup capital, eating the seed corn. As Gene Wolfe (whose Seven American Nights is a beautiful, baffling, unsettling depiction of American decline) might put it, we're "doing nothing, sitting around waiting for the money to run out". In his short story The Adopted Father (written in 1980 and included in his collection Castle of Days,) Wolfe wrote a depressingly prescient paragraph:
"That's coal smoke, the technology of the Nineteenth Century brought into the Twenty-First and hard at work. They could have conquered the solar system and harnessed the sun, but they did this instead, because there was no fun involved. Their great-grandfathers had done it, and they knew it would work."
Hearing the president mentioning this "bridge to the 19th century" as a beneficial policy marred an otherwise decent speech. Sure, I'll be voting for the guy because the alternative is unthinkable, but I really wish he wouldn't participate in moving the Overton Window further to the right.
In the interests of thoroughness, I'd also like to mention my second "beef" with the speech- would it have hurt the president to stress the importance of the down-ticket races? He devoted some time to pretending that bipartisanship would be possible, when he should have been lambasting the no-good, obstructionist GOP congresscritters. While Bill Clinton did a good job of making this point in his barn-burner of a speech, President Obama should have continued the tirade.
Cross-posted at Rumproast.