Monday, 11 February 2008

Oil Change

The always prescient Michael Klare writes in TomDispatch:

Over the past decade, this country has squandered approximately one and a half trillion dollars on imported oil, much of which has been poured down the tanks of grotesquely fuel-inefficient vehicles that were conveying drivers on ever lengthening commutes from the exurbs to employment in center cities.

What a graphic and efficient summary of what Mr Obama has to ‘change’ if he indeed gets close to the Oval Office, encapsulating as it does energy policy, urban planning and foreign policy all in three lines. But he’s going to need more than enthusiastic college students and appealing slogans to pull it off.

We can just imagine the resistance (Yes, we can!) from the floundering auto industry (no more SUVs), the collapsing real estate sector (stop building exurbs) and the military-industrial behemoths (end this demented war).

The need to wean our society from imported oil, reduce greenhouse emissions and build more livable urban landscapes for our growing population hasn’t a big secret at any point during my now-substantial adult life. But Saint Ronald told us to forget about all those tediously negative things and enjoy ‘Morning in America’ instead. We had to fight the communist menace and win the Cold War by building a lot of useless weapons. Yes, we can! And did!

So the Soviet Union is no more, replaced by Commissar Putin sitting atop an ocean of $100-a-barrel glop and announcing the next arms race. Meanwhile, Reagan’s tactic of bankrupting the enemy might look disturbingly like a boomerang when our ATMs say ‘Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’ instead of Citibank.

Reagan was a huge disaster, but instead of sober criticism of his reign, we’re supposed to weep at his tomb and keep applying his failed prescriptions. When that tired old trope starts to fade, we’ll know real ‘change’ has a chance.

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