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Another politically motivated boondoggle

June 28, 2013

While researching an article on the reason for periodically  renovating home gardens, I utilized a number of sources to show why the landscaping you planted ten or twenty years ago may no longer be the right one for your area. One of those sources was a collection of graphs documenting climate change.

Climate change is a cycle the Earth has been enduring for millions of years. However, as humans we tend to frame everything in terms of our own lifespan, a time period that is less than a nanosecond when compared to Earth’s history.

The weather conditions that may impact a generation, such as the Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s, do sometimes coincide with human endeavors. Farming practices undoubtedly impacted the local severity of that decade. But the underlying cause, a drought cycle, was not controllable by any human, then or now.

The human race has been trying to manipulate or mitigate the effects of these natural cycles for as long as there have been humans. Some of the more obvious solutions are water storage and irrigation systems, discovering that fire would keep you warm, or the invention of air conditioning.

Up until recently, no one was arrogant enough to think that the human race could stop the climate from going through these cycles.

So what changed?  Someone found a way to make money from the notion that we humans can control the weather at its source.

On June 25, 2013 in an address at Georgetown University, President Obama described his vision for stopping the use of fossil fuels, or more properly, making it too expensive to develop or use them. You can read about it here.

This is a large plank in the Democratic Party’s platform, and the President seemed to be providing a few nails to make it more solid. The theory of government backing for any social change is to make it simply too expensive to continue a behavior that some group or party deems to be “bad”. People are fat?  Don’t even consider that we have so many calorie-conserving machines and electronics that people no longer need to burn calories except to breathe or move their fingers. Tax or regulate their food choices instead.

Most of these social impact movements never fully realize their goals, even when they are well-intended. All they do is allow a few people to make a lot of money while proving that the programs don’t work. My own house is an example.  It was once cool to promote electricity over gas or fireplaces as a home heating source.  Now the house is an expensively heated relic of that environmental theory and a victim of the newest one. 

I happen to live less than a half mile from a large wind farm, the Goshen North project, a joint venture between BP Wind Energy and a local development group, Ridgeline Energy. It was developed over the past five years or so on what had been partially farm ground and partially natural sagebrush habitat. None, and I mean none, of that power goes to benefit me or my neighbors. In fact, many of the local utility providers have requested increased electricity rates of up to 15.3%. One of the justifications for that is  the company’s increased costs of developing and utilizing  alternative power sources such as wind power. My house was built at a time when you could get tax breaks for having an all-electric “clean” home. You better believe that a 15.3% rate increase IS going to impact me, to the tune of about $84 a month in the winter.

I am not against wind energy. Back in the mid-1990’s I actually researched putting up a private wind-powered generating system on my own property, and I would have done it if there had been a permitting process. What I am against is the politicization of the technology.

No one, including me, is suggesting that we should just ignore the local or short-term effects of any man-caused alteration of local conditions. If the farmers of the Great Plains could have looked ahead before they took the government up on its offer of free land in the Dust Bowl states, and accurately predicted what effect plowing up all the natural vegetation would have in a drought cycle, they would have run past Oklahoma straight to California.

What happens if you take out the tax revenue advantages, don’t pay anyone to develop theories that manipulate the facts, or pay them to create mechanical solutions to the weather to prove a point?  I wonder how far the green movement would get? If proponents didn’t get paid big bucks to give speeches, or have financial interests in the programs, or gain a political advantage from backing some theory, would they exist?

No matter what effect this newest political sop to the environmental movement has in the long run, we need to consider all the long-term effects of legislation. Changes need to be based on more than winning elections.


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