Renewable Energy is Merely Another Front in the Culture Wars Now

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Over at ClimateProgress, Ryan Koronowski reports on a study that showed liberals and conservatives were about equally likely to buy an energy efficient CFL light bulb if it cost the same as an old-school bulb:

But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says “Protect the Environment,” and “we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,” said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

This reminded me of a line in a Jonah Goldberg op-ed this morning about our “infectious pessimism”:

The obsession with “peak oil” and the need to embrace “renewables” because we’re running out of fossil fuels are other symptoms of our malaise. Fracking and other breakthroughs demonstrate that, at least so far, whatever energy scarcity we’ve had has been imposed by policy, not nature….Humans are better understood as creators who’ve consistently solved the problems of scarcity by inventing or discovering new paths to abundance. As the late anti-Malthusian hero Julian Simon said, human imagination is the ultimate resource.

On the right, both climate change and questions about global limits on oil production have exited the realm of empirical debate and become full-blown fronts in the culture wars. You’re required to mock them regardless of whether it makes any sense. And it’s weird as hell. I mean, why would you disparage development of renewable energy? If humans are the ultimate creators, why not create innovative new sources of renewable energy instead of digging up every last fluid ounce of oil on the planet?

After all, there are plenty of reasons to think this is a great idea. If you’re Bill Kristol, you want to do it to reduce the world’s dependence on thuggish Middle Eastern dictatorships. If you live in Los Angeles (or Beijing), you want to do it to reduce smog. If you’re Al Gore, you want to do it to reduce global warming. If you’re James Hamilton, you want to do it because it will produce a more stable economy that doesn’t bounce in and out of recession every time oil prices spike.

In other words, there are tons of good reasons to believe that we should be moving at warp speed to develop new sources of energy. You don’t even need to believe in peak oil if you don’t want to—though why you’d deny something so obvious is a mystery. Peak oil, after all, is only a question of when, not if.

I happen to agree that human ingenuity is, if not limitless, pretty damn close. So why not harness that ingenuity? Digging up ever more oil from ever more difficult and dangerous places is the sign of a plodding mind, not an ingenious one. If you truly believe in pushing the boundaries of human invention and creativity, you should be the world’s biggest fan of renewable energy. That’s our future.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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