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Conservatives Can Love the Environment

June 3, 2012

So Tom Friedman doesn’t think that conservatives are doing the right thing in terms of the environment. (Thanks to Hot Air for the Sunday pointer.)  We’d all expect that.  But the real question he seems to have is where conservatives fit in the environment.  I consider myself a conservative, and I also consider myself sensitive to environmental issues.  But with all that, I often find that both sides of the equation get it wrong on many counts.  Let’s look at some of his arguments.

…In recent years, the G.O.P. base has fallen into a knee-jerk drill, baby, drill attitude that clean energy is for sissies and protecting the environment only hurts jobs, therefore, conservatism and conservation can’t mix. Last week, Romney traveled to a remote coal-mining town, Craig, Colo., where he trashed President Obama’s green jobs record, while addressing workers wearing caps that said “Coal = Jobs.” Yes, it does, for lung doctors.

Well, that last line won big points in the New York party circuit.  They’ll be chuckling over that one at next Friday’s wine tasting. The truth is that coal does mean jobs to those people, and to all the people at the enegy plants that use coal to power most of America.  So, um, yea, it does equal jobs.  Lots of them.  If you want to complain, maybe you should first look at what’s powering the electricity that’s feeding your apartment, Mr. Friedman.

Or perhaps, if you want to find some other form of energy, could you convince some of your friends to stop whining about fracking across Pennsylvania, becuase all that natural gas would likely replace coal plants with a cleaner-burning energy source that’s readily available?  Instead, the suggestion he has is:

Put the G.O.P. behind whatever fuel sources or technologies the marketplace produces — be they natural gas, wind, wave, solar, nuclear, efficiency, biofuels or sequestered coal — provided they’re produced in America, give us diversity of supply and steadily move us to cleaner air.

So, okay, he does mention gas… along with a variety of other energy sources that don’t replace coal in terms of energy supplied, especially energy supplied per dollar invested.  I’m okay with using government dollars to deliver new forms of energy research.  I’m not okay with massive subsidies of energy delivered in an effort to get them to cost parity.  I pay extra on my personal energy bill to get my energy from wind power, mostly because I’m willing to see the energy costs come down over time.  (For the record, I like wind power, and I think the big generators look cool.  I’d put one on a big piece of property if it made sense some day.)  So while I appreciate new forms of energy, I don’t think it’s realistic to just toss away coal, oil, and gas for tidal wave power, especially when that only works in very limited areas.

I’ll note that Mr. Friedman does toss in a slap to the Tea Party on its energy policies.  Um.  I don’t think there’s a specific plank for energy policy, just a general feeling that the government is spending so much moncy that we’re all in a deep hurt.  If the government can let energy stand on its own and not tax those who don’t want to support it, then I think there’d be no problem with energy.

Mr. Friedman’s suggestion is that conservatives should listen more to people like the Nature Conservency:

…For instance, the conservancy is working with cities in South America to organize large groups of water users — bottling plants, hydroelectric dams and water utilities — to finance the protection and restoration of watersheds upstream from their facilities. Planting trees that hold water like a sponge or protecting forests and natural vegetation that keep pollutants out of the water and prevent runoff is a much cheaper and more effective way to conserve water than building more reservoirs or treatment plants. And paying those upstream to protect this natural infrastructure gives them a sustainable means to do so.

All of that seems fine to me.  But what’s the point?  Conservatives don’t support causes that make sense in building a sustainable ecosystem?  Well, show a conservative how products can be reused or recycled across an industry, and maybe we’ll be in favor of moving dumb subsidies to instead focusing on long-term costs.  Of course, when President Bush suggested investing in fuel cell research, he got lambasted for focusing on the long term.  So maybe conservatives would respond to ideas, as opposed to polemics.

Finally, I wonder what Mr. Friedman and his friends think of conservation in different forms?  For instance, hunters’ licenses are usually directed to support the lands or water in the state.  I live in Oregon where they collect trail fees to maintain my ability to hike, and I’m enthusiastic about paying for that.  So conservatives will happily support environmental responsibility when it can actually be used to pay back to the environment.

But maybe that’s just me being a short-sighted conservative.  After all, I’d prefer to see ideas that can be implemented.  I’d especially like to see them implemented before we take away the energy we need to survive.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2012 9:47 am

    The most reliable form of alternative energy is nuclear power. I’m not sure about the wind power. We have a few turbines in the Bay Area, and they always seem to be down. I hear that the subsidies are grotesque.

    • June 3, 2012 8:04 pm

      They’re down because the power is too expensive, and when the power doesn’t get sold then they idle the turbines.

      But yes, nuclear is a great alternative option. If anything, I’d like to see significant government investment in fusion. Pipe dream…

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