Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Celebration of Civilization

Americans take reliable and affordable energy so much for granted that they've developed a reckless contempt for the companies and people that provide it to them. They must think their homes are electrified and heated by magic, given the disdain they show for coal mines, drilling rigs, power plants, nuclear reactors, transmission towers and pipelines, and judging from the vilification they heap on the evil energy companies, which routinely are portrayed as the murderers of Mother Earth.

One demonstration of that contempt comes tonight, with the annual celebration of "Earth Hour," when "millions of people around the world" will turn off their lights for one hour in order "to make their stand against climate change." Energy use = global catastrophe: that's the dangerously simplistic equation touted by the dim bulbs who thought up Earth Hour. The only way we can "save the planet" is by turning off the lights, parking our cars and crawling back to the dank caves from whence we came, much to the planet's misfortune. Light has always been synonymous with civilization. It was long believed to be a friend to humankind (thank you, Prometheus). Earth Hour turns it into the enemy of the planet.

Energy providers take this abuse in stride: they've been so badgered into submission by eco-Luddites that they can barely rise to their own defense. They seem apologetic and ashamed -- some probably even sponsor Earth Hour events and distribute pro-Earth Hour propaganda in an effort to placate their implacable critics.

But I have an idea that might help them turn public perceptions around.

I propose a counter-event called "Energy Hour," which would also occur once a year, but at a randomly-selected time. All at once, on cue, all the world's energy providers would suspend operations for an hour (maybe longer if you really want to make things interesting), plunging the planet into darkness, cold and immobility. The lights would go off. The computers would stop. Electric appliances would not work. Gas tanks would go dry. Streets would be gridlocked. Apprehension and uncertainly would grip most of the industrialized world, as the people wait anxiously and prayerfully for the light to return.

Maybe the worldwide standstill that would result -- maybe the disruptions, the danger, the discomfort and the desperation that would occur, if civilization were for even an hour "off the grid" -- would remind disconnected moderns of the debt they owe to energy providers. Maybe they'll understand, once again, that electricity doesn't come from light switches, and that without drilling rigs, their cars become inanimate objects. It probably won't take more than one or two Energy Hours before the Earth Hour movement loses its mojo, and before people take a more rational, balanced and appreciative view of the energy sector. Maybe we'll see a halt to the regulatory warfare waged on energy producers. Maybe we'll get a national energy policy based on realism, not pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams.

Happy "Energy Hour," everyone! Take a moment this weekend to savor all the comforts, conveniences and benefits that come from living in this gloriously energy-dependent society.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No Energy Policy

No drilling.

No coal.

No nukes.

No fracking.

No oil sands.

No shale oil.

No hydropower where fish swim.

No solar where turtles roam.

No wind where bats and birds fly.

No transmission lines.

And now, no biomass.

Does anybody else see a pattern here?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Enemies of Progress"

What stands as the single biggest obstacle to reinventing government and fiscal sustainability in the United States? The Economist knows.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Legislative Therapy

Too many laws get approved as a form of legislative therapy -- as a way to make politicians feel needed, relevant and better about themselves. Here's one excellent example. Whether or not those new laws make much sense -- if they can be enforced -- is of secondary concern. It's all about feelings: how we feel about them and how they feel about themselves. I'm open minded on the question of whether this simply mirrors, or whether it feeds and perpetuates, our national neurosis.

How much trouble we all would be saved -- and how much madness could be avoided -- if, instead of letting them "act out" legislatively, we simply paid their psychiatry bills instead.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Less is More When it Comes to Legislating

The "Paige Postulate" says that the longer a legislature meets, the worse off that state will be, fiscally, economically and by almost every freedom-oriented measure or metric. Why? Because the more unnecessary legislating there is, the bigger mess of things legislators make.

There isn't a "Freedom Index" done for states, the way some think tanks do it for countries, as far as I know, but if there were such a ranking, I'm betting that states with short, part-time legislatures would rank far better than those with longer sessions or full-time legislatures, thereby proving the "Paige Postulate" correct.

Wyoming's 2011 legislative session is already closed, amazingly. All the better for Wyoming. Such short sessions are one major reason why the cowboy state isn't the fiscal and economic basket case that so many states are.