Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The issue of energy independence.

Energy independence for the United States may well not be seen in our lifetimes. The argument being that the inertia that the industry has accumulated over the last century is staggering. We are shackled to oil as religious fundamentalists are shackled to socially outmoded dogma.

The question that lies, or should, at the forefront of any debate regarding the pursuit of energy independence is not a moralistic one regarding the environment. It is purely, what can be done, and what is it going to cost. At the root of any question regarding government action is, 'is this something that the federal government should be involved in'. Too often this is ignored. The answer to this can be easily found in the ROI of whatever program is proposed. The problem right now is the fact that this question is not being addressed. It is not even a bullet point. The current administration saw fit to pander to the mid-west corn growers by passing legislation to provide massive subsidies based on ethanol production from corn. The efficiency, ROI, of this is without question well under what we should be shooting for. In business terms in order for any investment to be viable it must have at least a thirty percent return. Corn based ethanol has an estimated 24% return on energy investment. That's before even analyzing the externalities of the effect on world markets for grain and livestock. Quite simply, this was a fundamentally flawed approach both from the business aspect and the interest in energy efficiency.

Long story short, we must, without a doubt, begin to dedicate serious research into alternative energy sources, including alternative fuels and bio fuels production other than corn based ethanol. At a certain point we must reexamine the role of fuel in our lives, and in the marketplace. Fuel that is used in every walk of life, and effects the very nature of our society is a commodity. It is an energy source that defines how we live every bit as much as electricity. How then can it be responsibly left in the hands of the marketplace. How can this pivotal and fundamental part of our lives be allowed to be manipulated by foreign corporate interests with no concern over whether our middle-class can afford to drive to work, or whether a single mom can afford to pay for rising food prices due to increased overhead for distributers? How can we even think that this is a reasonable course of action? We are facing an energy crisis that could very well bring this nation to it's knees. We can ignore it and keep sucking at the teat of foreign oil interests, or we can stand up as adults and work to see this country free and energy independent. Is it going to be cheap? No. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to happen tomorrow? Of course not. Do we need to start today? Yes, we need to start as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The World as we Know it

The very simple and inescapable fact of US politics is that it's both a roller-coaster and a shell game at the same time. Candidates play three-card Monty by gauging public opinion and voter response and working to appeal to the majority, whatever that majority happens to be at the time. The effect of this is the roller-coaster ride we see between ruling majorities of partisan politics. At any given point in any country there will be challenges that need to be faced, and there will be people that feel that their needs are not being met or that they are not being represented. Politicians play the role of the conciliatory negotiator. They take on the mantle of martyr as an image and march to Washington on the backs of people that believe in them.

The problem that we are facing right now is that once they get there, there is no true accountability. There can be no accountability without transparency. Therefore, the single most important thing to me, and many others, in this election season is transparency of government, and personal accountability of it's officials.

We are not discussing electability, we are not discussing the amount to which one candidate or another appeals to our moral or personal ideals. We are discussing the direction in which our government must turn in order for it to responsibly address the issues that our country faces.

In this election year have been offered many choices, and have been left with only three. Of these three there are two that are representative of standard political fare of the last three decades. John McCain, for all of his appeals to honesty and forthrightness has been shown time and again to stand on, and for nothing. Hillary will refute any notion that she is a standard candidate by simple virtue of the fact that she is a woman. Last I checked, a vagina doesn't in any way afford you any special insight or level of political, economic, or social acumen needed to properly address the real problems that our nation faces. Neither does her 'experience' as an arm decoration for the POTUS for eight years provide an argument for precedent of validity. Barrack Obama has, however, repeatedly shown himself able to rise to challenging occasions with stunning alacrity. Many would question his experience, as if political experience actually qualified someone to be a leader, or the lack of it could be defined as a disqualification. Yet others would question his sincerity. It is the realm of the cynic to be automatically skeptical of any unknown quantity, and rightly so. But that leaves us with the option of 'the devil you know.'

Then there are those that somehow still manage to define themselves as 'conservatives' that tow the Republican party line year after year, and would define Barrack Obama as a 'tax and spend' liberal. For my money, I would vastly prefer someone that intended to spend the money that they have, not the money that they can borrow from someone else. I would prefer someone that approaches tax dollars as income to spent on the people that pay it, not on paying off special interests. I would prefer someone like Obama that has endorsed the paygo system. These are the same people that would have you believe that his plans are too expensive, and that he would ruin the economy with new taxes. With absolutely no evidence forthcoming regarding how responsible fiscal policy, and investing money in the future of technology business and education could endanger the economy, they fall back on the 'they want to steal your money and give it to poor people!' line. The sad truth of the matter, is that this is a democracy. Guess what, poor people vastly outnumber the rich, they have more votes they get what they want, that's they way it's meant to be.

For all of the above reasons I feel confident that Barrack Obama is the only rational choice left for President of the United States this upcoming election year. He has repeatedly shown the courage and the forthrightness to challenge the willful oppression of progress, both in social matters, and in economic matters.

If he's elected he may well not accomplish anything. We could easily see another shift that puts the Republicans back in charge of Congress which would lead to further gridlock and maintenance of the status quo. But at the very least, he wouldn't actively pursue known flawed policies and attempt to defend failed ideas for the sake of politics or blind, stubborn arrogance and ignorance. If Barrack Obama gets elected, it's also possible that we will see an end to the world as we know it. And I can't wait.