I sincerely wish that going forward we didn’t need to use fossil fuels ever again but that is not the case. We aren’t done with coal, gas, or oil quite yet. It is also essential that we keep trying to set America free from reliance on foreign energy resources, especially oil, because needing to keep other countries happy to insure our oil supply gives them leverage and it gives these same countries potential power to control our response to world events. Also, it is possible that we can use the pipeline as a bargaining chip to help keep the Republicans from insisting on cuts to “entitlements” before they will allow tax rates to go up.
We must accept, however, that we are walking a dangerous line between environmental catastrophes and our energy needs and this dilemma is becoming more and more obvious. Most of us accept that the climate changes we are seeing like the melting ice caps and the rising sea levels and the severe storms can be linked to burning fossil fuels and the levels of CO2emissions produced by that chemical process. Using combustion to produce mechanical energy will not work well for us for much longer unless we create domes to live under and move well away from coastlines.
Unfortunately we don’t have a great new source of energy waiting in the wings that will provide enough power to meet our energy needs. We have our little collection of problematic alternative energy sources: solar, wind, nuclear, maybe some thermal – each with pluses and minuses. Right now there are more minuses than pluses.
This is why I say we should go ahead with the Keystone Pipeline. I am not really in favor of the pipeline, but I believe they have agreed to change the route so that it doesn’t cut across Nebraska’s fresh water aquifer. It’s practically a done deal and a pipeline is not as bad a risk for our fresh water as drilling offshore or fracturing shale. Sad to say, unless something comes along, we will probably end up doing those also, but let’s wait until we’re desperate. Let’s also keep pushing for the toughest rules we can possibly get to force the energy industry to protect our fresh water (and even our oceans) and to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible.
Obama’s plan to prod the economy had many aspects. Since we did not get to see if the whole plan would work, the plan was split into its individual components. We didn’t get to see if any of those worked either because each separate part of the plan was voted down. Now we have arrived at the last recommendation in the Obama plan, which would allow the current break on social security taxes to continue for another year and would keep extensions to unemployment insurance. It seemed that this part of the plan, on its own, had some chance of being voted into law; until the House linked it with the Keystone Pipeline Project. Nebraska has a problem with the Keystone Pipeline and, since it puts Nebraska in the position of having two pipelines passing through it, one right over a key water reserve, we are right to support Nebraska on this issue. It should never have been linked to the payroll tax cut or unemployment benefit extensions. The House Republicans knew this was untenable when they did it and to act shocked now is disingenuous. They killed this bill and they did it for political reasons.
I shouldn’t really express an opinion on this because I am retired and do not stand to gain any tax relief or unemployment benefits from this plan. Still I can’t help having some feelings as I am watching this play out on the news in the week before the holidays. I am not sure the America people want to have this issue as the one that inspires them to say “enough”, or that they want to stand and fight on this minor battleground. First of all, it makes us look like charity cases, which we may be right now, but perhaps not so desperate that we have to “take a loan” (so to speak) from Social Security. This is a very small tax cut, not really a tax cut at all, and some say it may affect Social Security in the future. It is not that working people will not be happy to have a little extra spending money, but we understand that you are lending us our own money to buck up consumption and speed up the economy. The extensions of unemployment insurance are harder to give up, but these only help the recently unemployed. So many other groups are not being helped by this. I wish we had gotten grumpier when all the other recommendations in this plan were turned down. We are watching a fake stalemate which is really about the election and not about helping the American people.
I do hope the Congress passes these two attempts at financial assistance for Americans who need relief. I just hope we remember this represents only one tiny part of the plan to speed up our economy and that the sorry Republicans, who cannot agree to any tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, are not adverse to using this last ditch strategy, which was once part of an organized economic plan, to stage more political theater in Washington. I guess this activity is supposed to help them get elected in 2012 as the watchdogs over American spending. I think we would rather have you keep these pittances and do something more spectacular, risky and productive that would help us for more than one year and would not put our future at risk.