“I am a geo-green,” says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who has written a series of columns expounding his “geo-green” stance. Geo-greens, he says, combine geopolitics with green strategies – specifically in the context of the Middle East and terrorism.
Friedman says that Bush’s failure to advocate conservation and renewable energy results in a “no mullah left behind” policy. By refusing to conserve, America ensures high oil prices that keep the regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia flooded with cash and resistant to democratic reform.
What Friedman neglects to say is that these same windfall profits are also landing in the laps of western oil companies. Look at Exxon-Mobil: now valued at more than $400 billion, it is the world’s most profitable corporation. Friedman also continues to spin the fantasy that Bush’s Iraq invasion has helped to bring democracy to the Middle East, but his geo-green idea, at least, makes perfect sense.
Friedman has addressed his plea to Bush and the neocons, and some neocons are already with him. Former CIA director James Woolsey owns a Prius and has been outspoken about the need to promote energy independence as a national security strategy.
Woolsey is not the only conservative who is going geo-green. Here’s some news for my friends in the biodiesel movement: the Red State folks are fascinated by your veggie mobiles. See this blog post at redstate.org. They detect a whiff of the French about you that goes beyond your French fry oil, they laugh at your goatees and wonder if you wash, but they are intrigued. Some of them are even brave enough to consider Friedman’s idea of a dollar a gallon gas tax to help wean us from petroleum.
On March 14th, ultraconservative congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) gave a presentation on the House floor on the topic of Peak Oil. Peak Oil is the theory that all of the significant petroleum reserves have already been located and that we have now used up about half of that 2000 gigabarrel legacy from the Earth’s past. Because the last 1000 gigabarrels will be increasingly hard to extract, the era of cheap oil is over, starting now. Bartlett explained the dangers of the intersecting curves of rising demand and falling production. He even advanced the heretical notion that “… transition to sustainability will not happen if left to market forces alone.”
Friedman has called for “making energy independence our generation’s moon shot.” He’s not the only one with this idea. A non-profit group called the Apollo Alliance has already built the launch pad. They propose a renewable energy investment program of $30 billion a year for ten years that would create more than 3.3 million jobs and produce $284 billion in net energy cost savings.
Apollo has teamed up with Set America Free, a group headed by right-wingers like Richard Perle protégé Frank Gaffney. Set America Free advocates a crash program of alternative fuels development centered on the 500 mpg car – a plug-in hybrid vehicle that fills up both at the gas pump and the wall plug. It could easily run on ethanol or biodiesel as well.
Gaffney and his neocon colleagues at Set America Free are clearly worried about more than the Islamists. In a recent column, Gaffney said, “… we are likely to find increasing competition from China for limited oil will become a flash point for future conflict, if not an actual causus belli.”
So where are the Democratic voices linking energy conservation and national security? With awareness of Peak Oil rising along with prices at the pump, it’s time for Democrats to make it clear they are leading the charge for the geo-green strategy. They might even want to call it “energy security.”
Energy security is the big tent that the Dems desperately need, because energy security encompasses just about everything. For starters, take the economy, which is starting to bog down under escalating energy prices. Diverting money that would go to ayatollahs and sultans (as well as to oil company CEOs and wealthy investors, by the way) and pumping it into renewable energy programs would create jobs and lower future energy prices.
And saving the economy through energy security might well be the REAL salvation of social security.
There is no doubt that the environment is much better served by achieving long-term energy security. Eventually we will have to give up fossil fuels altogether, and if we can make the transition sooner rather than later, we may be able to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Drilling, spilling, mining, refining and burning oil, coal and gas also take a hefty toll on our health. Fetal brain damage from mercury pollution, asthma, heart disease and cancer are the wages of our sin. Religion, too, fits under this big tent. Some Christians have started a “What Would Jesus Drive” (WWJD) campaign to encourage us to make a deeper commitment to earth stewardship. Many faiths have a green core that will embrace geo-green ideas.
Every time I hear John Kerry talk about dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease gas prices, I cringe. Democrats need to get over their fear of asking for a national sacrifice. How can Americans be willing to send our young people to die in Iraq but refuse to sacrifice one bit of our comfort and convenience to help the cause? Jimmy Carter’s cardigan hangs over the Democrats like a shroud. But times are different now. When Reagan turned the thermostat back up at the White House and ripped the solar panels off the roof, the oil boom of the 1980s was about to begin. There will never be another oil boom.
Next week, when Congress returns from Easter recess, it will begin to take up the President’s energy bill. There is no indication at this point of any significant change from last year’s version, which devoted two dollars out of every three to oil, coal, gas and nuclear subsidies.
The Democrats need to stand tall for energy security. And along with any conservatives who, living up to their name, believe in conservation, they can point the way to a green future that just maybe, if we are blessed with a bit of foresight and courage, awaits us all.
Kelpie Wilson is the t r u t h o u t environment editor. A veteran forest protection activist and mechanical engineer, she writes from her solar-powered cabin in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon.