Luke’s Log- Both Sides are Pretty Much Wrong about Climate Change
To the already copiously-amended Keystone XL Pipeline bill currently underway in Congress, there has been a new amendment added– one which asks lawmakers whether or not they agree that climate change is affecting planet Earth.
The maverick social democrat Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, proposed the amendment. Slate has described it as a ‘troll’ measure, meant primarily to humiliate Republicans who have been adamantly posturing against the very notion of climate change for years. It is not expected to have any serious effect on the rest of the bill.
For what it’s worth, both sides are pretty much wrong, though they get important details right. The Republicans who deny that climate change is a real phenomenon stand against the bulk of empirical scientific evidence and make huge asses of themselves before the American people. However, it is more or less true that the measures Republicans tend to support in energy innovation- fracking for natural gas, new methods of reaching shale oil, investments in advanced nuclear energy, etc- do a far better job at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than the Democrats’ various proposed schemes like Cap and Trade.
The Democrats are generally scientifically correct, but tend to fall into a cultish sensationalism when discussing the ‘imminent’ effects climate change will have on the environment and humanity. Their proposals, including emissions-regulations like Cap and Trade and low-power green energy sources like solar and wind power, are devastating to the economy and have been empirically proven to have little net effect on total greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a wonder that we’re in the midst of negotiating various international treaties based on these outdated and inefficient methods of geoengineering, rather than advanced methods fit for the 21st Century.
So what to do? The Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, advocates as middle-of-the-road approach that acknowledges the reality of climate change and its true danger, without sensationalizing it to an apocalyptic degree. Low-power schemes and plans to reduce emissions by law would be shed in favor of innovative projects that could restore economic growth, such as the current generation of low-emission hydrocarbons, advanced nuclear energy, and carbon-capture technology. These technologies, and their potential enormous social implementation, are the key to a greener and more golden future.
The Keystone XL Pipeline, in directly supporting the shale oil industry, is a good potential halfway step towards a greener future. Using cleaner fuels like shale oil rather than coal can power the country pragmatically and generate the capital needed for investment in hi-tech power storage, advanced nuclear energy, and carbon capture, while reducing emissions at the same time. We’ll need to get off of oil eventually- but it isn’t going to happen today. Shale oil can help act as a moderating step, and significantly improve America’s energy infrastructure at the same time.
With luck, President Obama will choose to cooperate with the Republicans on Keystone, though he has said he will do otherwise. With more luck, President Obama will begin working on a comprehensive future-energy plan that can enrich the United States and reduce its environmental impact- now that would be a presidential legacy worth having.