Let's say that the new conventional wisdom is correct—that we ought to dispense of worries of resource scarcity, and embrace a dawning age of U.S. oil abundance and self-sufficiency. If we ask ourselves what that means, one conclusion is the apparent elimination of a central rationale for the development of clean energy technologies—that the U.S. needs them to shed its reliance on unreliable oil imports from nefarious Middle East nations.In a subsequent email exchange with LeVine regarding potential oil abundance, Michael T. Klare responded:
Clean-tech must be scrutinized through a political lens, because by and large, none of the technologies stands on its own feet as yet in the marketplace. They require political support to survive. Let's take a look at the calculus for clean-tech.
Industry analysts and journalists assert almost weekly (like Citigroup's Ed Morse and reporters at the New York Times) that U.S. shale oil and deepwater reservoirs, plus Canadian oil sands, are making the U.S. virtually self-sufficient in oil. (I myself have urged caution in this exuberance.)
In response, President Barack Obama said last week that oil drilling is not the "be-all, end-all strategy" of being energy self-sufficient, but rather that the U.S. requires "all of the above," meaning solar, wind and biofuels, too. He said this because he wants to retain federal support for clean-tech companies and research, but is being pummeled by opponents who call such assistance a boondoggle, and accuse him of hostility to oil. The other reason he said this is that gasoline prices in much of the country are well over $4 a gallon.Already, politics have knocked out another pillar of the clean-energy foundation—the push to hold down CO2 emissions. Since there is no longer apparent majority U.S. political will to stave off global warming, clean-tech has seemed to lose that logic for public support.Mining Alberta's tar sands
Now goes the argument of energy security: If the forecasts of a U.S. bonanza are accurate, biofuels, advanced batteries and other technologies will be unneeded for the purpose of energy freedom from the Middle East.
With planetary collapse and energy security eliminated from the calculus, clean-tech would be back to basics—its sole apparent remaining case for public policy support, at least in the U.S., would be the popularity of things clean. Promoters of these technologies would either have to make that case, or become cost-competitive and survive in the marketplace. [...]
I see this as making the United States more like a Third World petro-state—we will see increased economic benefits in some quarters and among certain specialized labor sectors. But we will become more like a basic commodity producer that must lower its environmental standards in order to boost production, and less like a modern high-tech country like Germany and Japan.It's quite the discussion that can write off planetary collapse as an impinging factor only when there is public support for dealing with climate change, a term that barely passes the lips of President Obama these days. One can have immense fun arguing the hypothetical what-ifs the same way one can virtually refight Stalingrad or Agincourt and come out with the Nazis or French victorious. But climate change isn't hypothetical no matter how much pretending is done.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011:
When the Lesser Bush took office in 2001, Republicans rejoiced that "adults" once again would be in charge of foreign policy and national defense. These adults had spent the 1980s arming Saddam Hussein, even as he was gassing his own people. These adults had spent the 1980s arming the Afghan mujahideen, only to abandon them after they had expelled the Soviet Union, refusing to offer the sort of humanitarian aid that could have prevented the embrace of extremism that often comes with poverty and isolation. After returning to power, these adults ignored the screaming warnings before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allowed the perpetrators of those attacks to get away, then launched two failed wars, including one against the very Saddam they had previously supported, and who was in no way involved in those terrorist attacks. Then even as they waged war on a nation that had never attacked the U.S., had never committed a terrorist attack against the U.S., and had no means of doing so, these adults embraced a Libyan despot who had actually been complicit in a terrorist attack that killed U.S. citizens, and then protected him from lawsuits stemming from that attack. Whatever Republicans mean by being adult, let's hope they don't soon have another opportunity to impose it on anyone else.