Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If Man Can Walk On The Moon...

The famed scientist, David Suzuki, tells the parable of a test-tube of bacteria, starting with a single cell that doubles in population every minute, so that by the end of an hour, it has filled the test tube and exhausted its food supply and air. He points out that, at 59 minutes, the test tube is only half full, and at 58 minutes, just 25% full.
He imagines the debate the bacteria at 55 minutes:
"We're running out of space, we're running out of time, we're running out of air and food."
"Nonsense! Look! We have nearly all the tube left. There's plenty for all of us!"
This was the image that popped into my head while watching Obama's speech last night, particularly at this passage:

"Time and again, the path forward has been blocked -- not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor," Obama said. "The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight."

"We cannot consign our children to this future," he added. "The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

Indeed, the time may be past to salvage any chance of a future as we've imagined it. When just one oil company spends more on drilling in the US-- one of the less promising resources for oil-- than the nation spends on energy research, we've got a major problem.

In the past, I've pointed out an optimal solution to train the guns of America and the world on renewable energy, and it's one I still haven't seen a serious "player" suggest, so I'm throwing it out there again: offer a government stipend, a grant of one billion dollars with no strings attached beyond the competition. If you can develop a truly renewable energy resource, one that doesn't pollute and can be harnessed with minimal environmental footprint, and have it produce BTUs at the rate of fossil fuels, you win the prize.

But I digress...
Obama termed the oil spill an "epidemic" and this is an excellent analogy. It's not a devastating attack like 9/11 was. It's not an act of God that swept through the Gulf, like Katrina was. This was foreseeable, preventable, and once unleashed, should have been containable.
That it wasn't contained is the real story here, one the media refuses to tell honestly. Obama's popularity has wrongly taken a hit here. It was the Bush administration that approved the license, it was the Bush administration cronies that allowed BP to dummy up inspections and set their own rules, and it was the Bush administration that, yet again, killed that region of the nation. BP, and if the testimony before Congress is any indication no oil company, should not have been allowed to drill without a massive contingency plan for the worst case scenario.
We have a chance now to set in motion not only our energy policy for the next few years, but for decades to come. We can wean the nation off oil and onto something healthier and safer for us all. We've done this before, heck, we've done it often, from whale oil to coal to crude, and from CFCs in the atmosphere to even better propellants and refrigerants. We've beaten back challenges. We will continue to do so.
Geology is the study of pressure, and time. Right now, epochal forces are acting on the American people. We can crumble into dust, or we can turn into diamonds.