Saturday, May 23, 2009

Real World Change

The Secretary of Energy is struggling to get the U.S. going in the right direction after much too long spent with the powers of government aimed at a target of profits for oil company forces. His aims are those we all share, a better and more survivable world. To get there, he has to get through a congress that has long-established enemies of the popular interest ingrained in its innermost recesses.

My area representative in Congress is among the worst. Rep. Ralph Hall makes no pretense of putting his constituents' interest in the place of honor when he exercises the powers of congressional office.

To get through the gauntlet of oil company representatives, Secretary Chu is trying by starting with achievable goals. In a time when climate change is a growing threat, that has brought a lot of criticism.

The American political system is in the throes of a fierce battle over climate policy. President Barack Obama says he wants cuts in greenhouse gases but has left it to Congress to make the political running.

The House of Representatives is debating a climate and energy bill but even if it passes it may be rejected by senators, many of whom are funded by the energy industry.

Prof Chu is a Nobel prize-winning physicist and a world expert on clean energy. But he said it was impossible to ignore political reality.

"With each successive year the news on climate change has not been good and there's a growing sensation that the world and the US in particular has to get moving," he said.

If you could convert (with photovoltaic cells) 20% of the Sun's energy into electricity you would need 5% of the world's deserts. This is not much land
Steven Chu, US Energy Secretary

"As someone very concerned about climate I want to be as aggressive as possible but I also want to get started. And if we say we want something much more aggressive on the early timescales that would draw considerable opposition and that would delay the process for several years.

The US energy secretary said that awareness of climate tipping points had increased greatly only in the past five years. He added: "But if I am going to say we need to do much, much better I am afraid the US won't get started."
Damon Moglen from Greenpeace USA was alarmed by Prof Chu's comments. "Obama has had something of a honeymoon with environmentalists," he said.

"But we are getting very concerned. Professor Chu is a good man and a good scientist, but the science on global warming is clear and he should be guided by the science not the politics...When asked whether he was frustrated, he (Chu) said: "No, I am realistic about the politics and as in time we can make adjustments."

In the best of all possible worlds, considerations of personal gain would never come before the interests of humanity as a whole. Needless to say, this is not that world. Working within the bounds of reality may sometimes verge on defeat of the best. The new administration operates as an effective and rational voice for concerns that were shut out for the previous maladministration, and has much lost ground to make up for.

Trying to do everything at once would make our hearts glad, but would make the way rockier to achieving the ends we desperately need. Secretary Chu has the towering intellect to qualify for the office he holds, which has a huge struggle ahead of it.

Maybe Diane can lend him that Feng Shui kit I sent her when she had a broken arm.

This administration has many struggles ahead of it, and will need all the energy and intelligence we voted for to get through the obstacles which constitute the right wing.

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