Harvard student Ted Hamilton makes the point that the furious spending by carbon corporations for climate denial and lobbying proves that fossil fuels are just a contingent necessity, that we can choose to leave them behind. We can stop paying the bully!
… we tell ourselves that even if we weren’t complicit, we’d still be powerless to do anything: We’re addicted to carbon, and we always will be. This type of reasoning is behind the recent State Department report on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Sure, it’s really bad for us, the report says, but the carbon’s going to get into the atmosphere anyway. Powerlessness, rather than ignorance or shame, becomes the final justification for inaction.
We know that the oil industry and its allies went to great lengths to kill renewable energy in the 1970s. We know about their efforts to manufacture consumer demand for SUVs and their undermining of public transportation and rational urban planning in favor of personal automobiles and sprawl. Yet for all that social tinkering, the Treasury Department estimates that cutting off industry subsidies would have little effect on gas prices. In other words, we can afford to stop paying the bully.
… besieged on Capitol Hill by a lobbying machine that spends nearly half a million dollars each day, our congresspeople equate discussion of Big Oil’s malfeasance with career suicide.
… the aforementioned lobbying machine … guarantees $59 of subsidies for every dollar it spends in Washington.
The obvious upshot of this history is that we’re not so trapped after all, that there always were and always are other paths. The furious spending by the fossil fuel industry to fabricate science and to obfuscate climate truths is the final proof that it is an industry whose products are a contingent necessity, that we can go another way. Why would carbon corporations worry so much about maintaining our addiction if there weren’t good alternatives? Once we remove the dissembling and dependence-inducing influence of Big Oil from the energy picture, and once we make better use of our misdirected public resources (anywhere from $10 billion to $52 billion in annual subsidies, depending on whether you take into account defense expenditures), there’s no reason to think that a greener future is not imminently attainable.
… as soon as we open our eyes and admit what’s before us, we see that our complicity and powerlessness are myths.
After all, the solutions to our carbon addiction are well known. Stop the subsidies. Use the savings for renewable energy infrastructure and for investing in green technology research and consumption-cutting policies. Cap emissions and spread tax and fee revenue to those most vulnerable to a sudden change in energy practices. Reimagine the design of our economy and our cities. Even simpler, something we could do tomorrow: Stop mining coal. [emphasis mine, order of excerpts changed]
OK, a green energy future isn't imminently attainable.
Re-imagining the design of our economy is the hardest part, as I see it. Taking back control of our politicians from carbon corporations will also require a massive grassroots movement.