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as the Politics has shifted, the dangers have remained the same

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It wasn’t that long ago that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum understood that burning fossil fuels was bad for the Earth. Coal and gas were understood as the root cause of climate change, they polluted our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. As a result, the idea that we should consume fewer hydrocarbons was widely accepted, the science of climate change was accepted, and moving towards a diversified, clean, home-grown energy portfolio was a plan everyone got behind.

But something else was also happening in that time of climate harmony. It was understood that alongside decreased consumption would come decreased production. We were running out of cheap sources of oil and gas in the United States anyway.

Fast forward to today. Consumption of coal and gas are still root the cause of climate change, they are still polluting our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. The science behind climate change has only gotten more sound. And yet, the bi-partisan acceptance that we should move to a clean energy future has eroded. Heck, even President Obama is calling for increased production of oil and gas. So what changed?

Technology. We could all get along on energy when we all thought we would be producing less. Now we can get a whole lot more of that out of the way, expensive hydrocarbon bounty that was just not worth it in the past–the “unconventional sources.” And if we can recover more oil, if we can successfully drill deeper and further and in more remote places, if we can continue to make money off oil and gas, then the arguments against consuming fossil fuels become much less impressive.

So the argument shifts, the new era of technology makes energy security and energy jobs and domestic production the holy grail of the political energy sector, on both sides of the aisle, and relegates what has not changed, the very real and potentially catastrophic environmental threat of continued dependence on fossil fuels, to the background.

For a clear, thoughtful, reminder that we are indeed reverting, read America’s Fossil Fuel Fever, by Michael T. Klare, at The Nation.

Advocates of the new techniques claim that the environmental risks are overshadowed by the greater benefit of economic gain and national security. “Even while the environmental argument rages,” Yergin wrote in the Washington Post in October, “oil sands are proving to be a major contributor to energy security” by lowering the nation’s dependence on Middle East oil. Increased domestic production, he adds, is generating jobs and reducing the nation’s dollar outlays for imported petroleum.

These arguments have great appeal and are attracting support. But they are deeply flawed. While highlighting some benefits to the nation’s security and well-being, they overlook detrimental outcomes of equal or greater significance.

The most important, of course, is the impact of these trends on global warming. By shifting the emphasis from renewables to fossil fuels, we can expect a significant increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—from the consump-
tion of oil and gas and from its production. The consumption aspect is well understood: all fossil fuels contain carbon and this carbon is released when the fuels are burned, so any increase in fossil fuel use will result in increased GHG emissions. But the production aspect requires closer attention. All drilling activity requires energy, which produces GHGs; producing unconventional oil and gas, however, usually requires far more energy than drilling for conventional fuels and so emits a correspondingly greater amount of GHGs.

The Church Defense and Climate Change.

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The public efforts on behalf of climate change in the media are missing a grand opportunity.

If I were in that wonderful and ominous clique we call the Mainstream Media, every single time that Rick Santorum defends his preposterous public policy positions regarding contraception by using the Church Defense*, I would ask him why he rejects climate science.

Every time.

It would require a presidential candidate to publicly proclaim not only that he rejects accepted science, but that he rejects his Church’s very clear stance on that science for political purposes. The Catholic Church’s position on Climate Change cannot be more clear. So how do politically conservative Catholic candidates and elected officials continually get to use the Church Defense on contraception, while ignoring the Church on climate change?

If you are capable of defending a policy choice that would hinder access to the most commonplace of activities because your Church advocates it, how can you reject commonly accepted science that is also accepted by your Church?

This point is missed time after time, and it’s a shame. This really has nothing to do with Rick Santorum or even just the Catholic Church; many mainline and evangelical churches also acknowledge the reality of climate change while their political representatives ignore or campaign against it. Instead, it has to do with the fact that rejecting climate change science has no real defense, and our media has allowed an entire political party to walk away from reality for no reason beyond politics.

Mainstream media, you miss every chance you have to make that point. Alas.

**Rick Santorum has been relying more and more on what I call the Church Defense for his position on contraception. The Church Defense, from Rick Santorum, on his policy plans for contraception: “I’m reflecting the views of the church that I believe in,” he said. “We used to be tolerant of those beliefs. I guess now when you have beliefs that are consistent with the church, somehow, now you’re out of the mainstream.”

Written by Christopher ZF

March 5, 2012 at 11:42

the Presidential Election forthcoming

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President Obama has been presented with a great luxury. While the Republican candidates for President are finding new ways to draw (political) blood, the President can remain free from the muck. The muck will of course come to him, but the longer the GOP folks fight amongst themselves, the more time Obama has to remind America why he inspired them in the first place: he is an awfully engaging, powerful campaigner. When full campaign mode comes, it won’t be easy for President Obama, obviously. There will be a terrible, ugly fight. Just as Liberals shouldn’t get too over-confident as Santorum and Romney say stupid thing after stupid thing, the GOP shouldn’t forget who they are running against.

Just thinking strictly politically, if I were a Republican, I would worry that one these two:

will eventually have to engage with this guy:

Written by Christopher ZF

February 28, 2012 at 14:46

Protect separation of church and state from Rick Santorum.

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The idea of the separation of Church and State is integral to the United States. Upholding the idea remains as important today as it was when our founders built a nation that expressly forbid the mingling of the Church with the operations of the government.

Rick Santorum, though, disagrees. He says:

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” he told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

Two quick things for Mr. Santorum.

One: I disagree vehemently, and am terrified that a Presidential candidate would claim that the church should have influence and invovlement in the operations of the state. That is unconstitutional, and opposes the very foundation of the US as a nation by people who understood the dangers of allowing the inter-mingling of the two. It’s one of the reasons we decided England just wasn’t for us. Bone up on your Thomas Jefferson.

Two: Your second point is invalid, as the separation of church and state does NOT say that people of faith have no role in the public square. People of faith have every right to civic and public involvement, and any notion that people of faith are somehow kept out of the public square is just straight lunacy. See many atheists running our government, do you Mr. Santorum? Your brand of Christianity already has too much of a role in our government for comfort, and to hear you claim otherwise shows how capable you are of ignoring reality.

You have it backwards, and you need to learn: the idea that the church can have influence and involvement over the operation of the government is antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. People of faith, of all faiths, are welcome into the process. But the church is not.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 26, 2012 at 12:05

Really, with Seth and Amy: Birth Control

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I’m still pretty worked up about the birth control argument that has been underway in American Politics. I think it is embarrassing and disgraceful and representative of a time that we should collectively have left in our past.

So I was delighted by this past weekend’s Weekend Update on SNL, in which the classic segment Really, with Seth and Amy took on the issue. Maybe it even had an impact on that Virginia law.

Anyway. It’s worth a look. Because the issue remains important, and the news that all-male congressional hearings are taking place to determine such an issue as female reproductive rights only highlights how tone-deaf too many people still are, in 2012, regarding such an everyday, commonplace element of the modern life.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 24, 2012 at 15:00

Grover Norquist wants a President who can hold a pen and obey Grover Norquist

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For some reason I cannot understand, Grover Norquist holds immense power in the modern Republican Party. If Grover tells Republicans to sign their name on a sheet of paper promising to do what Grover Norquist says is best for the country, for the most part candidates and officials sign their name to that paper. They may say otherwise, but they don’t act otherwise.

Norquist holds a lot of sway in the party. He’s not the ultimate arbiter of power and all things conservative, but still, he’s a force. And his opinions on the Republican presidential candidates matters.

So what is Norquist looking for a in a president? Here is at CPAC.

Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.

And,

All we have to do is replace Obama. …  We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. 

Yep. When choosing the quote leader of the free world unquote, we need someone who will do what he is told and will not attempt to be a leader or an autonomous human being with ideas to improve the nation. No. Pick someone with hands. Because the only thing that matters to Grover Norquist is that Obama loses to any Republican who will take Grover Norquist’s orders.

I assume Norquist has Romney in mind, since Romney is not a fully autonomous human anyway, but is a well oiled deliverer of adviser determined talking points. Or so it seems.

This may be a relatively politically astute position, designed to craft future policy to decrease Americans tax burdens, but it is still toxic to the health of the nation. Putting your faith solely in congress, let alone THIS congress, will not be good for anyone.

Anyway. Conservatives, Grover Norquist is poison to your party and our country, and following him too closely will not help your cause. Don’t let him drive you in to the ground.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 13, 2012 at 11:35

Do you really think the Quakers are wrong on Keystone?

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In a piece at Politico on the lobby reports for Keystone XL, there is mention of a Quaker lobbying group and their involvement in Keystone efforts.

That caught my eye. So I checked out the Friends statement on the Keystone XL, and must say, I was warmed to think that TRC’s position is the same as that of the Quakers. Isn’t it always better to be on the side of the Quakers?

The over-arching concern with the Keystone project is that it represents an immense investment in dangerously dirty technology and backward thinking. Not only would the pipeline promote greater production of and access to fossil fuels, but it would take us further in the wrong direction in a time when our energy economy and the infrastructure that supports it should be undergoing fundamental change.

If you want to support the dirty, dangerous pipeline, you’re going to have to argue with the  Society of Friends. And why would you want to argue with a group whose message is peace, equality, justice and simplicity?

Written by Christopher ZF

February 6, 2012 at 13:49

Posted in Keystone XL, Politics

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