I had mentioned posting about my one major beef with the State of the Union speech, but I held off for the weekend because I was still savoring the President's smackdown of the Republican Caucus during their retreat (how appropos...). Well, my one big beef (VPR?) is his use of Competitive Enterprise Institute/Club for Growth/Republican Party propaganda term clean coal. His support for offshore drilling and nuclear power were bad enough, but clean coal? Honestly, coal is not clean. Back in 1980, in his short story The Adopted Father, collected in the compilation Castle of Days, Gene Wolfe wrote:
John Parker crossed to the window and stared at the dark sky beyond the glass. "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."
This was written in 1980, after a decade marked with energy crises. Thirty years later, what has been accomplished in updating our energy policies? Precious little, as we loony lefties all know. It's been decades of tax policies encouraging the purchase of gas guzzlers, "Nuke their ass, take their gas", and missed opportunities for promoting conservation.
Also in 1980, Gene Wolfe wrote the essay Helioscope as a companion to the first volume of his haunting, masterful Book of the New Sun. Uh... **SPOILERS** follow here, so anybody unfamiliar with BotNS, go out, purchase, read it, become totally addicted to the work, and come back in a couple of months, armed to the teeth with in-jokes about "alzabos" and "cacogens". The essay was included in the book Castle of the Otter, which was then reprinted as part of the aforementioned Castle of Days volume. In Helioscope, Wolfe describes the genesis of The Book of the New Sun, which is set in a "medieval" society on a far-future Earth:
The challenge to science fiction today is not to describe a slightly hyped-up present, but a real future- a time radically unlike the present, that is. Clearly , there are more than one of these futures, there is the future in which mankind returns to the sea for new sources of food and raw materials. There is the future of extermination. I decided that the future most in keeping with the dark figure I had planned and his journey toward war was what I call the do nothing future, the one in which humanity clings to its old home, the continents of Earth, and waits for the money to run out(emphasis mine).
As Thom Hartmann so poetically put it in The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, fossil fuels capture millions of years of carbon produced through photosynthesis- a "bank account" that we continue to squander, when we should be using it as "start-up capital" for the production of renewable energy sources. The President had a real opportunity to eschew the talking points of the do nothing crowd, and issue a genuine call to action, but he blew it. I think I'll leave it at that, before I spin out a rambling rant about how algae is going to save the world.