The title for this post has two sources. The first source is the voice of “Larry the Cable Guy” speaking his famous line over and over inside my head, ever since I realized that the little “accident” down in the gulf was turning into a disaster of epic proportions. The second source is the fact that I’ve been struggling to decide what I wanted to say about the mess down there for almost as long. Hell, this post has gone from a Random Raving, to a WusAMatta U, to a Major Rant while I’ve fiddled with it! As I’ve struggled to find my voice on this issue, something else has also begun to repeat over and over in my head. I’ll reveal what that is at the very end. For now…
Okay, I admit it. I felt a certain smug satisfaction when the big gulf oil spill happened a full fourteen months after I challenged President Obama to “…use the anniversary of Man’s landing on the moon to challenge this nation to become completely independent of fossil fuels by the end of the next decade” in my It’s Time To Prove Ourselves Again post. Believe me, I was very tempted to gloat about the dire results of ignoring my advice, but as usually happens when one gets “smug satisfaction” from something, events have conspired to erase all thoughts of smugness and/or satisfaction from my mind.
Having said that, I still felt a great sense of relief when I heard that the president was going to make a historic announcement on the situation to the nation direct from the Oval Office. “Better late than never,” I thought. But I was disappointed. Again. So naturally I’m feeling a renewed urge to climb into my “Jester” costume and start pouring the smelly ooze of mockery over the whole thing. And this time I’m going to give to that urge, sort of, but using a Professional Jester instead:
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But wait, there’s more! It’s not like Obama is doing nothing at all! For one thing, he’s managed to get an unprecedented $20 Billion commitment from BP to help cover the costs of the cleanup and reparations. For another, he’s managed to get Kenneth Feinberg assigned as the administrator of those funds – a choice that seems to have received almost universal approval! And, as our friend Jon Stewart goes on to remind us, when it comes to failing to get the oil monkey off this country’s back, our dear Barack is just the most recent entry on an embarrassingly long list:
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But as funny as that is, I must say that the seriousness of this crisis – and the ugly spectacle of political maneuvering that has ensued as a result of it – has shocked and saddened me almost into speechlessness (another reason why it’s taken me so long to flesh this post out). But more importantly, I have learned a bit more about just how difficult it will be for us to gain any kind of real independence from fossil fuels.
Now it’s important for me to admit that I was in favor of allowing expanded access to oil production from local sources like the Gulf Of Mexico. It just made good sense for us to get as much of that crude as possible from local sources during the time it takes to ween ourselves off of it, so that we can at least get started on the “independence” part of the plan right away. Unfortunately, that included the rather naive assumption that “local sourcing” somehow equated to “local control.” If this debacle proves nothing else, it is that the “bad guys” we need independence from are not limited to just those wearing Arab headgear, and that true independence will take a lot more than just allowing giant oil companies to trash the environment closer to home.
It’s equally as important for us to admit that we have a big problem when it comes to assuming needs and expectations that we must rely on others to meet. Who would argue, in hindsight, that it made good sense to base so much of “The American Dream” on environmentally disastrous fossil fuels? Or to allow ourselves to become so dependent upon sources, over which we have little or no control, to meet those needs? And yet the sad truth is that we are being just as naive about the path we’re taking towards our new “independence” as we were when we got ourselves into this mess in the first place.
Here are just a few points to consider:
- The all-electric “dream future” we keep fantasizing about will have to be powered by something! As much as people complain about the danger it represents to the environment, the use of coal for power generation remains the most economical course. Sure, we like to talk about alternatives like solar, wind, and thermal, but the only way to get those things to the point of mass affordability is through huge government subsidies that no one will back. And don’t even get me started on nuclear power!
- Even if we make an all-out effort to realize that all-electric “dream future,” there are some very large problems we’ll face when we get there:
- The continued – and ever-increasing – vulnerability of our electric power infrastructure, and of all the electronics-based systems powered by it, to disruptions caused by either natural, or man-made, disasters.
- The fact that so many of these dream technologies are based on the use of very rare materials, like the so-called “rare earth elements” and lithium, which are found in useful quantities only outside the U.S! Do you recall all the recent noise about the big rare minerals find in Afghanistan?
- The fact that we already use quite a bit of the rare materials mentioned above, and most of those uses are not exactly what you’d call “important to our national security.” We could very well end up in the all-too-familiar position where vital materials are in short supply because they’ve been wasted on frivolous endeavors.
- Lastly, and perhaps the most sobering, is that we’ll still be consuming oil for years to come just to make all those products that, although they have nothing to do with fuel, we still will not want to live without.
As I’m sure you all know by now, I’ve had a bit of experience with the concepts of dependence and regret. Having chosen to become an “urban hermit” to get away from the temptations that can only lead to more regret, the frustration I felt when I was bitten in the ass by my continued dependence on technology just last week (when I first decided to get serious about writing this post) made it quite clear just how shaky the ground is that the “hermit” part of my adopted title stands on.
So it’s with my own experience as a backdrop that I try to grasp just how deep and wide-spread the sense of loss is that has now gripped my country. The many thousands that are directly affected by the spill itself, and the population as a whole that can clearly see just how crass and ineffective our government truly is. I’m sure that president Obama feels the loss of voter confidence, now that they have positive proof that he cannot, in fact, walk on water. But who knows, once the oil-water mix is thick enough… Even BP chief Tony Hayward is about to feel a deep sense of loss – after he gets fired for incompetence!
Anyway, I’ve wondered, more than once, if some unconscious recognition of my susceptibility to temptation could have been behind my lifelong fascination with the group known as The Temptations. You’d be amazed at how often one of their songs pops into my mind when I’m trying to glean some sort of meaning from the disturbing chaos of the world. This case is not really so different, but it does have a slight twist.
Remember when I said that there was something else repeatedly playing in my head? Well it’s an old Temptations song alright, but one that was covered by another band. It’s the name of that band, and the fact that this disaster kinda gives new meaning to the lyrics of the song, that has caused it to play over and over in my head:
Possibly useful links:
Larry the Cable Guy
Latest Gulf Coast Oil Spill News
Ken Feinberg – The Man Who Will Spend BP’s Money
Rare Earth Elements
In search of Lithium: The battle for the 3rd element
Vast Stores of Minerals ‘Suddenly’ Found In Afghanistan
World Resources of Rare Earth Metals: China Controls the Market for Now…
National Geographic Channel’s “Electronic Armageddon”
Surprising Products That Are Made of Oil
Rare Earth (the band)
And, just for kicks:
I want ice water.