Get-R-Done?

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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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?
    3. 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:

I want ice water.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

12 thoughts on “Get-R-Done?

  1. Great post. I added it to Facebook.
    You know Mak, whenever you embed most of your videos, I miss the good old 70’s.
    If I could time travel, that’s where I’ll go.

    Like

    • I forgot to add that I was up most of the night putting the finishing touches on this post. And then, after I published it and was about to hit the sack, I remembered that the Wimbledon Tennis Championships start this morning! So here I am, on my second cup of coffee in an attempt to stay awake, watching my man Roger Federer get his butt kicked! 😡

      Like

      • Sadly his butt didn’t collapse, nauseating swissman!

        Superb post boss, only problem being the first 2 videos are not allowed in britain so can’t see, shame, but your wordage more than gives the picture…

        Like

        • I gotta say that watching that match, fueled only by caffeine and adrenaline, was an experience I don’t care to repeat any time soon. I was so exhausted by the time it was over that I thought for sure that I would be passed out by now. Yet here I am, fumbling at this keyboard, which seems to have had a few of its keys relocated! 🙄

          What’s up with Britain and The Daily Show? Or is it anything from Comedy Central. Or anything from the U.S.? So many of my favorite show have originated from over there that I just don’t get the lack of reciprocity! 😕

          Like

            • You know, now that you mention it, the British show I watch over here are always out-of-date as well. I remember reading someone’s review of the season’s finale of Dr. Who, when that season hasn’t even started over here! Oh well… 🙄

              Like

  2. The grid needs to be updated along with a lot of the US infrastructure. There’s no doubt about that.

    I’m not sure which dream technologies you’re talking about. There are plenty of solar technologies that don’t require lithium. I’m not too concerned about running low on vital raw materials for alternative power technology. If they’re of the type that require rare earth metals, then they’re going to be too expensive in relation to the amount of power. Or, if they aren’t, then we’ll deal with that as it comes, and look for alternatives to those metals. There is a LOT of different solar tech in development. Some of the most interesting involves using bacteria with chloroplasts to generate hydrogen that can be burned to power generators.

    I agree that we will still be consuming oil for years to come. We need oil for plastics. I think this is a legitimate use for oil, and plastics can be recycled. I think we should move away from using oil for fuel. If we only use oil for materials instead of energy, there will be plenty to last for generations. If we continue to use it for fuel, we’ll run out of it much faster, and it will never exist freely in the quantities that it did ever again (or at least so long as humans are around). This is a special point in our evolution as a species where we’ve learned to harvest a material, but haven’t learned out to conserve it for what’s important. Will we use it up before we learn, or will we get it and discipline ourselves?

    I’m betting that we’ll use almost all of it up. Destroying tomorrow to benefit ourselves today seems to be the typical human response. And there are those that would have us believe that God put that oil there for man to use, and that when it’s used up, God will supply something else, so drill baby drill.

    I don’t have a problem with clean nuclear power. Nuclear technology has improved considerably since 3 mile island. It’s safer and cleaner than it used to be, even though it still produces waste. I do think we’ll eventually learn to deal with that waste even more effectively than we are.

    Like

    • Thanks dood, for a very thoughtful, and thought provoking, comment. I admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by all the ideas for future technologies being tossed around, which result in a somewhat scatter-shot coverage. I hope you’re right about us not being as vulnerable to rare materials as I suggested. I also think that you’re dead on in your assessment of our future handling of existing oil reserves. Political expediency and the bottom line will always conspire to push our choices along the path of least resistance.

      I especially want to acknowledge my agreement with your thoughts on nuclear power! I can’t help but wonder how far down the road we’d be towards solving the waste disposal problem if the politics of fear hadn’t had such an impact on research funding.

      Have you ever read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer? There’s a particularly poignant moment in that story when the hard decision has to be made regarding whether or not to try to save what appears to be the only remaining operational nuclear power plant. It might be hard to understand outside the context of the story, but I still get chills whenever I recall the part where one of the characters, who favored saving the plant, uses the “We used to control the lightning!” statement as a way of asking the others what kind of future – what kind of people – they wanted to be.

      Like

Express yourself!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s