A short, befuddling visit to Perryland and Obamaville

You’d think by now the pathetic arguments of climate deniers would fail to get my goat, but I suppose Texas Governor Rick Perry deserves some kind of credit for taking blatant hypocrisy to a whole new level, and thus managing to raise my ire.

“A substantial number of scientists [have] manipulated data to keep the money rolling in,” New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline quoted Perry saying on the stump in a tweet.

This comment from a man who has raised more than $117 million in campaign contributions over the last 13 years, more than $11 million of which has come directly from oil & gas companies (who knows how much more has come via indirect sources). One can only imagine that these numbers will go up exponentially if Perry happens to win the Republican nomination for President.

What’s Perry’s reasoning again? Oh right. That these soulless, cynical, greedy scientists are conspiring to deceive the world and set us on a horrific path wherein we… gasp… use cleaner energy — all because they are trying to rake in tens of thousands of dollars in cushy university teaching salaries and research grants.

Yep, that makes a ton of sense.

How could you possibly trust someone like Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University, when she gets paid to study climate change? If she and other climate scientists didn’t convince the rest of us that global warming was real, they might have to find another job.

Sure, Governor Perry’s political campaigns have probably raised over 1,000 times Hayhoe’s salary from special interests. And without that $100+ million, he’d be out of a job too. But that’s different. He’s a selfless public servant. A man of the people. A god-fearing Christian who called global warming a “secular carbon cult” and thinks the best way to deal with Texas’s terrible drought is to pass a proclamation calling on Texans to pray for rain.

So maybe Dr. Hayhoe wrote a book about what climate change means to people of faith with her husband, an evangelical pastor, but let’s not confuse things.

Okay. Spent enough time in Perryland, where black is white and a beautiful head of hair is a solid reason for becoming our 45th President? Then let’s make a quick stop in Obamaville, where the weather sure is different than in Perryland. In Obamaville, they don’t deny the existence of climate change. They just worry that saying the words “climate change” or “global warming” could lead to disastrous (political) results. Like maybe Michael Keaton trying to marry your daughter.

Instead, Obama has tried to navigate a thin, shaky line — using clever linguistic tricks to have his proverbial cake and eat it too. His administration has pushed for investments in clean energy, but with nary a mention of global warming as a key reason why, and with … how shall I say this… an expanded definition of what precisely is “clean energy”: nuclear, clean coal (sic!), and natural gas.

But now a storm is brewing in Obamaville. It looks like thousands of concerned citizens (or as Governor Perry likes to call them, “secular carbon cultists”) plan on demonstrating in front of the White House for two weeks to call on President Obama to put up or shut up when it comes to approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada down to Texas.

When it comes to the XL Pipeline, Obama has nowhere to hide. As PCI Fellow and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote yesterday in the Washington Post:

That’s because, for once, the president will get to make an important call all by himself. He has to sign a certificate of national interest before the border-crossing pipeline can be built. Under the relevant statutes, Congress is not involved, so he doesn’t need to stand up to the global-warming deniers calling the shots in the House.

This is not a simple issue. US oil production is down 43% from its high in 1970, despite Obama’s recent claims that oil production was up last year, and we now import two-thirds of our oil.

So the case can made that the XL Pipeline is a strategic move to reduce our dependence on oil from politically unstable or hostile regions. But the 1 million barrels/day the pipeline is supposed to deliver is only 5% of US oil consumption. And how much of that will be exported from Texas refineries overseas? That’s hardly a panacea for our energy woes, especially when, as McKibben says, “tar sands are also the second-largest pool of carbon in the atmosphere, behind only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.”

For someone (as I must imagine President Obama is) fully aware of both the climate crisis and peak oil, it’s hard to justify the XL Pipeline. But that means he has to name it… this global warming thing… and I’m not sure he has the courage.

Perhaps you think I’m being too hard on the guy. Maybe. But then I think about Tim DeChristopher, the 30 year old climate activist who was just sentenced to two years in federal prison last month for illegally bidding at what was itself an illegal oil and gas lease auction. The US Justice Department decided to make an example of DeChristopher, asking for the judge to sentence him to 10 years in prison.

Right now, as you read this, imagine Tim sitting in a prison cell. Imagine the noise, the smell. Imagine the fear he felt when he first stepped into that prison.

Courage is not being without fear. Courage is doing what you believe is right despite fear, despite sacrifice. Courage is what Tim displayed throughout his trial and, I imagine, what he has to muster every day and night in whatever prison they sent him. I’m not sure the same can be said about President Obama when it comes to doing the right thing about the climate crisis. And of this, I’m sure: courage is not what I’ve shown. At least not yet, for both of us.

Over the next two weeks, thousands of climate activists from all over the country will converge on the nation’s capitol to practice civil disobedience. Largely inspired by the words and actions of Tim DeChristopher, they will risk arrest to get the President to do the right thing, the courageous thing about the XL Pipeline. I plan to join them. Will you?

To learn more about the protests, visit tarsandsaction.org. To add your voice to the growing list of citizens calling upon President Obama to reject the XL Pipeline, sign this petition.


Leave a Reply

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