Change, Personal Interest

Being an American First

Okay, so let me put this out there first. I am above all a citizen of these United States. I’m an American through and through and I am so proud of the incredible feats we’ve accomplished as a country over the course of our relatively short history. But, that notwithstanding, we have still greater feats and still greater challenges ahead of us. So yes, despite some of the faux pas our citizens and leaders can make and the wry smile that those actions may send to the world, I still believe with all my heart that the United States will lead the way into the future. But in order for this faith I have to become the reality of our country in 2025 and beyond, we first need to confront those aforementioned greater challenges that are still to come and get us to a collective belief.

Now that it is out there that I am foremost and American, I can tell you that I am an American with a left leaning or liberal stance on politics and moral issues. This may come as no shock to you; I don’t exactly hide my opinion well. And so for the last three and half weeks until the election is at our front door (or, more aptly, at our neighborhood elementary school/church/polling grounds) I am going to continue being staunchly liberal, shedding light on what former Governor Romney is actually saying compared to Obama. I will focus on the histrionics of the political theater, the public’s reaction, and what I think it means for the country come 2025 onward. But once the election is over and the parties stop the incessant finger pointing that’s plagued our televisions, I will let my Americanism take seat over my liberal views and support whatever candidate makes it.

Saying this is somewhat of a change for me although not a huge one. All throughout Bush’s term I banged my fists in frustration about what he was doing to our future.  But at this crucial time in our country’s history, I think it is most important that we only allow ourselves to be divided by politics for the two months before that date in November. So whoever ends up winning, I will be following and blogging supportive advice along the way. If it rattles what I see as the vision for 2025, I will not attack them for what side of the political fence they sit on but for the lack of long term insight.

Right now, however, back to the reason that I think Romney and the Republican Party do not actually have the best interests of the country at heart. Please do not confuse that.  I have faith that the Romney-Ryan ticket believes it has the best interests of the country at heart. While I see Romney as slightly power hungry I do not see him as psychopathic as many men of his makeup would be considered (see How To Diagnose a Psychopath which is my title, not theirs). But when he says terms like “Clean Coal” there is great harm in what he is doing.

Many Americans listening to him will then believe, because of the “reputable” source from which it came, that there is such a thing. There are clean coal technologies, but even the people who have built that technology openly admit it is only a temporary solution to a much bigger problem. So let’s clear this up before any more confusion takes place: coal is a hazardous waste that the EPA should classify as such, the only advantage the illusion of clean coal has over other greener solutions is cost, and burning coal leaves behind a solid byproduct (ash) which is a pollutant in every regard. For more on debunking the myth of clean coal, read this whitepaper put out by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Obama has made mentions of clean coal in the past and even authorized a billion dollars of funding to the first near-zero emissions plant. But, this has not clouded his vision as he continues to push for regulations on coal in order to incentivize getting a greater movement toward actual clean energy solutions. As much as it would please the Ohio coal miners to believe in the idea that technology has somehow invented away to erase matter (which, as a basic law of physics, is impossible) it simply isn’t true. And that’s okay for the Ohioans if we can think of the alternative energy as the alternative solutions. If we already have a workforce we can mobilize, then why not take any miners who feel they’ve been displaced from the coal industry due to the regulations and offer them a better job in a solar farm or wind farm? What the parallel should be is that China cannot take away coal production from us. It will forever make the most sense to mine it in America. Similarly, it will forever make the most since to generate and store whatever alternative energy solutions we come up with here in America. If we can make the components that go into those farms in America as well, all the better, but even if the private companies looking for cost savings go to China to find them, installing, upfitting, and maintaining all the farms is still a service job that cannot be outsourced.

The best argument against this clean coal initiative comes from Leslie Back’s 2010 article entitled “Mr. President, There is No Such Thing as Clean Coal.” She gets to the root of what is being argued as the “clean” solution by politicians that would have you believe such by pulling a quote from the website of the public-private organization FutureGen that sponsored the operation: “‘…the CO2 will be compressed into liquid-like state known as a supercritical fluid, which is like a liquid, before being transported for injection into the ground. It will then be delivered to the target storage formation at a depth greater than 3,000 feet…’ Sounds like a big landfill.” But let the point that’s being made not go to waste. Romney stood up last Wednesday and argued for more of this. Obama, while this authorization may point to the following statement’s contradiction, has repeatedly proclaimed that he believes greener solutions are the way to go.

There is no getting around it. Back in 2010 Obama authorized a band-aid for a problem that needs a body casting. Yet, I don’t think any of the environmentalists that would have been pissed about this authorization would therefore support the republican ticket over the democratic one. So did Obama makes steps in the right direction with this? It is better than letting the emissions run off into the air, but I strongly doubt he would argue that this is the best we can come up with.

So I wonder, if coal miners are paying attention, do they realized that he gave them and their employer a way to meet the regulations for the time being by funding this project until we realize how to implement plans for greener solutions on a wide scale and transition those working in the mines to working on the farms? It seems to me that they should be in full support of this transition so long as it is made seamlessly in their favor and I see it happening as such. Let’s transition off of coal over the next 10 years and get the private companies who own the coal power plants to aid in this course. I do not believe regulations put around coal production should be looked at by those embedded in the industry as a negative but moreover as an opportunity. Figure out the green solution, implement that, transition your current employee base to it, and reap the benefits. I believe this is the path Obama wants the United States to take and while it may be a difficult 10 years while we work out the kinks and there will be times when we’ll want to say screw it and go back to just coal production, we cannot quit.

While coal power is cheaper than the alternatives at the present date to produce and distribute, it is much more costly to our society as a whole. This costliness will only continue to be realized as we hand the world off to future generations. We can no longer continue to put band-aids on the problem; the country needs to demand cleaner solutions, suck up the higher costs for a year or two, and realize the benefits for our children down the road.

And this brings me to the point that I feel republicans run their campaign on: instant gratification. Don’t get me wrong; this is most definitely effective. Everyone loves instant gratification as a source of motivation. In reality, however, any changes that are worth it come with little to no instant gratification. I believe it is this need or obsession as a culture, especially after the invention of the internet and the ability to quickly learn, communicate, or execute what needs to be done, that has led us to keep proposing short term solutions for long term problems. Of course the rhetoric Romney used during the debate made everyone feel good because he has promised to fix the country in four years. Do you believe that’s possible? Do you believe it is possible in 8 years? 15 years? 25 years? No. Any hole you crawl into takes a much longer time to crawl out of. So what we need to look at is not what these candidates are proposing over the next four years but what are the effects of their proposals 25 years down the line? If everyone realizes the value of planning for the longterm, these United States will continue to be the foremost power in the world.

Which leads me to the points I would like to make on how combining job creation and energy solutions could lead us out of this hole. [Note: you do not need to be an environmentalist to agree with me here. If my perspective moves you to see a new light, then I recommend you allow it. If you disagree, argue in the comments feed and I promise I will read it and if the point you make is valid, my perspective will shift. Please see my speech on Why a Change Would Do You Good for more information on this. However, it should be known that I am an eternal optimist who believes the universe is ultimately tilting toward justice, harmony, freedom, and equality and the only thing holding us back is the people who don’t believe that.] There are so many exciting developments being made in this field that combine only good things that I don’t understand how people could argue against them, albeit I will make a point to listen in attempt to understand people who do argue against it and reposition myself accordingly.

First, the United States is the largest service economy in the world. The work that private companies have outsourced to China is work that can, obviously, be replicated in China at a lower cost. In my opinion people focus on the lower cost portion of the problem much more readily than the replication portion of the problem. The answer, therefore, is not in giving incentives to companies keeping their factories on shore (although that is certainly a start) but in finding solutions that cannot be replicated over there try as we might. So many of the green energy solutions that have come out since Nikola Tesla’s time do just that.

Solar roadways would take an immense amount of effort but could put thousands of people to work if implemented. I believe we should target the states and cities with the highest unemployment rate to get a few of these roadways built. Again, if we keep a long term perspective here this is a cost savings project. I only want to pull one quote from their numbers page although I would recommend reading all of it as it’s fascinating:

“The cost of road materials has shot through the roof. We’re told that highway construction materials have gone up 500% over the past five years. Our own Governor Otter (Idaho) shared that the cost of liquid asphalt was $175/ton in December of 2007. By June 2008, it was $480/ton. When I spoke with the governor in July 2008, they were getting bids at over $1000/ton. Asphalt is petroleum-based.”

And there are enough components that go into this roadway system that we don’t need to worry about those who might be put out of work because asphalt production is going down. Retrain them on any one of the number of components that are needed to see this go to a national level.

The take away from this analysis: we cannot keep talking about topics that matter as if they are mutually exclusive. Every piece of the puzzle, the topics of the segments of the debates, can work together to benefit the other pieces. If we are the country born of and prospering from innovation, is this not what we must realize? The economy, as bad or as good as people see it as [NOTE: similar to my note on me being an eternal optimist I’m under a similar belief that the reason this economy is “so bad” is because people just keep saying it is “so bad.” Our reality is shaped by our beliefs and if we believe what we say, as most people tend to, then this bad economy will go nowhere good anytime soon] can be innovatively solved with green energy solutions without necessarily costing the jobs of the people who are working in more environmentally destructive fields.

My next set of recommendations for the presidents will be on how bolstering education can decrease foreign tensions.

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