America, in the words of its own president and close compadre of the oil industry, George W. Bush, is “addicted to oil”. Tackling this addiction and turning the country away from its grossly unsustainable frenzy of consumption is essential if the world’s number one energy hog and CO2 polluter is to begin to mend its ways.
Great news then that the reign of America’s worst environmental president in at least a century is now in its last couple of hundred days. By January next, a new president will be in the White House and the serious work of tackling the climate crisis can begin. Right? Wrong.
Republican candidate John McCain, despite all his recent huffing and puffing about being a ‘custodian of the environment’ in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt no less, was the first to float the idiotic notion this week that a cut in federal tax on petrol was just what the US needs.
Still, what would you expect from a Republican candidate? When push comes to shove, McCain was never going to stray too far offside from the demands of his Hummer-driving, bible-thumping, gun-totin’ voter base.
Thank goodness therefore for those eco-friendly care bears in the Democratic Party. Like Hillary Clinton. No sooner had McCain floated his ludicrous plan to cancel suspend the federal excise tax on petrol (18.4 cents a gallon) than presidential wannabe Hillary, quicker than you can say “Peak Oil”, comes out and backs this lunacy.
Of course it’s a temporary measure, just for what they call the “summer travel season”. What principled politician would want to do other than pander to the American public in its collective delusion that its oil orgy can go on indefinitely?
Hey, why bother buying a fuel-efficient car, when John and Hillary will simply pull a few strokes to get your six-litre behemoth back on the freeway, right in time for the “travel season”. Ain’t democracy grand?
“This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.
“When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
“No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?”
Touché. Still, if we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that we’ve learned nothing from the past. Well, certainly that’s the case for Hillary. Her husband used his eight-year presidency to re-write the rules and give ludicrous tax breaks to SUV drivers.
Why? It was a nod to Detroit and its unionised, Democrat-voting workforce. Bill Clinton’s message was simple: we’ll bend the tax system to prop up the inefficient US motor industry by subsidising its production of monster trucks. And even compared to the SUVs that stalk the streets of south Dublin, the US fleet is positively leviathan. Half of the private ‘cars’ in the US are in fact what are classified as ‘light trucks’.
And as Bill went, Hill follows. For this alone, she has shown herself unfit to be entrusted with the presidency at this most critical moment. A politician who so utterly fails to grasp the magnitude of the crisis that lies ahead would represent little more than a change of upholstery in the Oval Office.
The truly sad fact is that politics could be such a powerful force for good. New Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd has in the space of a few months turned around the environmental vandalism of the Howard era and is beginning to make impressive inroads into tackling Australia’s profound climate-driven issues.
These include the state of near-permanent drought now gripping once-fertile parts of the sub-continent, as well as the virtual collapse of the Murray-Darling river system, which has been severely drained by reckless agricultural irrigation programmes.
When it comes to tackling the climate/sustainability crisis, political leadership, Al Gore famously remarked, is a renewable resource. If that’s the case, we can only assume he, like the rest of us, is quietly rooting for the senator from Illinois.