Now that the election is done, let's look at more of the important issues that the republican party decided to address by sticking its head in the sand, The world's fossil fuel reserves are petering out. Pollution is causing problems besides global warming. Our roads are crumbling. We can't afford to maintain them, and need to look at other ways to build an infrastructure that will give us a decent standard of living. Here's a tour of just how much anti-scientific craziness has gone into today's republican party.
Hello, everyone. Let's start with the excuses, shall we? It's been a while since I wrote my last Laymen's Terms article. I have not been good about finishing these deliverables. And I'm not sure how often I can bring these together. Since the last time, a little deliverable was delivered in a delivery room and then delivered into my life, delivering me from the urge (and ability) to think too much about many things. If you catch my drift. It was a godsend, (literally so, for those whose faiths describe such events in those terms.) My mood about the issues behind this series was darkening because I saw the Republican party descending into rank denialism about America's environmental issues and infrastructure predicament., and rather than goading me to write more, it was afflicting me with despair. The sheer extent was too much. But, they lost. And I am relieved. And here I am writing.
As Rachel Maddow noticed, in the closing weeks of the campaign, Mitt Romney's retinue added a new press member, one by name of Jerome Corsi. This man is a peddler of much nonsense which I will not dignify by paraphrasing here (hold your nose and google, if you feel you must). Suffice it to say his drivel is so vile that Romney deserved to lose the election for this reason alone, even if for no other. But one particular item is all too relevant, so I'll hold it up: Jerome Corsi is a proponent of a warmed over Soviet crackpot theory: abiotic oil. Quoting Wikipedia:
"According to the abiogenic hypothesis, petroleum was formed from deep carbon deposits, perhaps dating to the formation of the Earth. Supporters of the abiogenic hypothesis suggest that a great deal more petroleum exists on Earth than commonly thought, and that petroleum may originate from carbon-bearing fluids that migrate upward from the mantle."Corsi expanded this into a book accusing the world's governments of creating a false impression that the world is running out of oil for their own purposes, and that there is in fact lots more down there, with more being created all the time. Again, the Wikipedians:
"Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by many geologists in the former Soviet Union, it fell out of favor at the end of the 20th century because it never made any useful prediction for the discovery of oil deposits."Ah, how I love the wry Wikipedian sense of humor. The author of this little gem deserves an award for understatement. The conventional theory on the origins of petroleum holds that only a small portion of the earth's surface is holding any oil. (Those places called "oil fields.") If the abiotic theory is true, there is oil to be found just about anywhere on the planet. You should be able to find a bubblin' crude any time you went shooting for some food, or at least come with oil every other time you drilled a water well. And since there are 193 countries in the UN, plus Taiwan, it is ridiculous to think every last one of them has been taking action to suppress the drilling of abiotic oil for the last umpteen decades. Testing this theory would be science brought to its simplest essence. To prove abiotic oil, all you have to do is pick a random place, one where geologists say there isn't any oil, and drill. Just one barrel, gallon, even a teaspoon of oil would settle the matter. Not a teaspoonful has been found. And this crackpot had a spot on the Romney press corps.
Various republicans have been friendly with abiotic oil crackpottery. And that is just a small portion of the delusional arguments you will find coming from the right. I will now list the others, and close with some words on just why this is happening, and why it is no reason for progressives to get smug. I'll do this by listing things that the Republican party, or parts thereof, has either denied outright, (D) or tried to drown out with distracting political messages. (M)
1. Carbon dioxide is a strong greenhouse gas.(D) Other Kossacks continue to cover this issue in great depth, and I am writing this essay to show that republican denialism covers even more ground than that,. So I'll end this paragraph right here.
2. Oil is a fossil fuel. (D) Millions of years ago, plankton and algae died and dropped to the sea bottom, where they became part of the seabed. Thanks to continental drift, those deposits of plant matter migrated to where they could be cooked by the earth's heat and turned into oil. The oil then seeped upwards, and if it ran up against an impermeable rock layer, it stayed there to wait for us to exploit it. There are no gnomes under the ground producing any more of it, and when it's consumed, it is not replaced.
3. Oil is getting scarce. (D) Just about every nation out there has seen declining oil production. The reason is simple: all oil fields peter out. Therefore the planet's oil reserves are themselves bound to peter out, which is what appears to be happening today, all over the world. The only response to this coming from the Republicans is to speed up the exhaustion of what little oil we have today, and to engage in a propaganda campaign about how we somehow have miraculously large reserves still waiting to be exploited. We don't.
4. Sulfur dioxide is a bad pollutant too. Soot, ozone, NOx, et cetera, aren't very good for you either. (M) Those problems have only declined, not gone away, and only thanks to the Clean Air Act, which the Republicans are intent on dismantling. Water pollution isn't nice. There are lots of ways to foul the drinking water. You can dump stuff in rivers, or inject it into aquifers. You can build roads into watersheds, and maybe salt them in the winter. You can cause deforestation in all sorts of ways, not least among them logging. That in turns makes the rainwater pick up more of the soil as it washes down to the river, and makes it turbid and less potable. This is bad.
So far as I could see, the GOP campaign teams haven't expressly engaged in denialism. They merely banged the drums to demand the EPA be abolished, as if there is no such thing as pollution.
5. Infrastructure is expensive to build and expensive maintain. (M) This item gets to the crux of the Republican strategy for this election season, and it harks back to an offhand comment by former Vice President Dick Cheney: "the American way of life is non-negotiable." He said this back in the early days of America's response to the 9/11 attack, to explain that as a matter of policy the administration would not ask for any kind of stateside sacrifice for the war effort. And of course, it is a load of malarkey. The American way of life depends on the most expensive and ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived, and as such it requires a never ending stream of natural resources and the ever ready vigilance of millions of workers keeping the power on, the water flowing, and the goods moving. Nothing like that could ever be non-negotiable.
That of course should come as no surprise to most Kossacks, who have spent the last 10 years logging in great detail the stories of Americans who can no longer live anything close to this mythical "American way of life." For the 2012 election, the Republican party decided to present the nation's current predicament as a struggle between a party that stands for the continued "American Way of Life" and a party that wants to end it, motivated by "socialism" and "environmentalism."
To present this narrative, you have to deny that the passing of the American WOL might have anything to do with the declining availability of many natural resources, with the current recession and its diverse causes, or with the natural processes of decay attacking our overbuilt infrastructure while our communities struggle to come up with the money to keep it up. And if you're going to deny this, you have to also stay in denial about other observations:
A stitch in time saves nine. The longer you take to maintain something, the more it costs you.
Rust never votes, and never sleeps. Roads grow potholes. Pipes rust out. Dirt subsides. Concrete crumbles. What you do in response has very little to do with being a democrat or republican.
And deny they did. We've seen a propaganda campaign that spent literally billions of dollars to drown out discussion of the myriad problems threatening the ability of the American people to live in the comfort to which they have become accustomed.
6. Our infrastructure is more expensive than it needs to be. (M) The thing that left me the most infuriated with the Republican party is that their rhetoric has cast a pall on the most fundamentally important part of what engineers do: learn from each other. There are other countries out their whose people live in greater safety and comfort than we do, for far less cost, both financial and environmental. But to mention this is to become the worst enemy of the United States of America: a Euroweenie.
Or worse, anyone who dares to speak up and say that we need to change our infrastructure so that we are not so dependent on oil, and on the automobile, is derided as an Agenda 21 conspirator. I mention this as a separate line item because it shows how the GOP has injected identity politics into something that should not be subject to any kind of politics.
7. Externalities matter. (M) An "externality" is an effect one person's actions have on another. I decide to drive to work every day, and someone living along my route has his asthma aggravated just a little bit, by the emissions from my tailpipe. I grow a beautiful garden, and my next door neighbor is able to sell his house for a little bit more money. Those are externalities. I mention this term because it encapsulates an infuriating aspect of republican denialism: so much of the work resolving our environmental challenges was done originally by conservatives. Lots of trees have been killed by economists talking about ways to correct externalities like pollution, traffic and the like. That is, right of center economists, who 80 years ago proposed things like pollution taxes, cap & trade mechanisms, and the like.
Now in 2012, we have a liberal president being excoriated as a "socialist" for thinking about policies that were proposed by conservative economists and discussed for decades, reaching the pages of the National Review in the early 90's. This is yet more denialism, going far beyond "romneysia." Today's GOP denies the existence of a GOP that once was, one that was able to come up with constructive solutions to the problems facing the nation.
The GOP lost this year. I would like to think that they lost because they took all this craziness too far, but I don't know that. They indulged in this craziness because a consensus among Republican (and mercenary) K-Street douchebag strategic consultants told them that this was the way to go. They have not yet turned back from the strategy, and they are still on message. But at least they are not in charge of the country.