Here's the problem with the whole global-warming kerfuffle.
Long ago the debate parted company with science. Global warming has become a creed, with its own messiah (the Rev. Al Gore), scriptural texts (the Kyoto Protocol, the European Panel on Climate Change report, “An Inconvenient Truth”), and a congregation with the ecstatic fervor of snake handlers. Anyone who wages jihad against heretics opposed to the faith will be whisked off to paradise — in a hybrid Prius, no less, a “Re-defeat Bush” bumper sticker permanently affixed — there to be met by 72 vegetarian virgins.
Now all creeds have their dark underbelly of hypocrisy. The Church of Global Warming is no exception. Take Barbra Streisand (please). Babs gets all moon-doggy around chic-geek Al — whose electric bill is 12 times that of his Nashville neighbors — and preaches to us about how we have to “cut back” to stop global warming.
Fair enough. Let’s start with some inconvenient truths. Streisand and her husband, actor James Brolin, live on a ranch with five homes. They spend $22,000 a year watering their lawns. They have a 12,000-square-foot barn. The barn’s air-conditioned.
Dang, guess I gotta “cut back” and sell a couple of my homes.
Or take House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proclaims herself an environmentalist yet is part owner of a California golf course that’s been cited for polluting groundwater. The owners were granted a permit to build the course on the condition that it include habitat for endangered species. The course was built in 1996, but the habitat areas are nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, she’s hired lobbyists to fight the environmental regulations that affect her.
But for sheer breathtaking hypocrisy we can always count on the Kennedys, the most visible members of a contemporary aristocracy who consecrate their existence with the holy water of environmentalism. Ted and eco-evangelist Robert Jr. blame global warming on Big Oil. Yet the family owns a company called Arctic Royalty Trust, which leases land for oil drilling. They accumulated the land by persuading farmers, mostly poor blacks, to sell the mineral rights to their land. Because the enterprise is a trust, they don’t pay taxes on the profits.
It gets worse. A Boston developer has been proposing construction of a wind farm — the Holy Grail of alternative energy — off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. The farm’s 130 turbines, from 7 to 13 miles off the coast, would produce up to 420 megawatts of squeaky-clean electricity, enough to supply all the needs of the surrounding communities.
But it’s not the Holy Grail for the Kennedys — or the Humane Society, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other groups. They staunchly oppose the development: It would spoil the view. It would interfere with yachting. They object that the company might make a profit on its $900 million investment.
Economic analysis reveals that the price of the electricity would be higher than that of the oil-fired electricity Cape Cod residents currently consume. So what? The price of that electricity is artificially low because it fails to include what economists call “negative externalities” — the societal costs, like the effects of pollution, that the buyer doesn’t pay for. Alternative energy, at least for now, carries a higher price tag, but if wealthy Cape Cod residents have to pony up a few hundred dollars more per year for clean energy that doesn’t contribute to global warming, they’d merely be absorbing the externalities of the oil they now burn — in someone else’s backyard — to heat their homes.
But no matter what the proposal, the congregation rises to its collective feet to oppose it. Nuclear? You’re kidding. Hydroelectric? Nope, messes with fish. Coal? Touch not the unclean thing. Wind? Nope again, some birds might get killed, even though one California study found that out of 10,000 dead birds, 700 are killed by motor vehicles, 5,500 by flying into buildings and windows, 1,000 by cats — and 1 by wind turbines.
On this page, the faithful’s rhetorical armamentarium consists of little more than sophomoric personal swipes at one writer who dares to question the faith. Meanwhile, we can bow before either the idol of alternative energy or the mammon of carbon. Whichever we choose, we should all choose, and it can’t always happen in someone else’s backyard.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
"Hypocrisy and the Church of Global Warming"
Here is columnist Michael O'Neal's take on the global warming controversy from today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News: