The Energy Problem

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Energy Problem

I've recently started watching Real Time with Bill Maher. Aside from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now it's one of the only shows on television where I've seen Noam Chomsky. The premise of the show is pretty simple, if you haven't seen it. A handful of guests get together to discuss the issues of the day. I actually have a post in the works regarding the episode with Noam Chomsky. But tonights post is about the episode that aired April 26 of this year with guests: actor/director George Clooney, Sir Ian McKellen, Rep. Barney Frank, correspondent Michel Martin, and historian Victor Davis Hanson. Bruce would have been quite pleased with the handling old Victor David Hanson got.

It is an interesting show and you're bound to hear perspectives you won't hear in many other places on television. The guest who most impressed me on this program was the actor Sir Ian McKellen. I also enjoyed Representative Barney Frank. I'll begin with a quote from Frank questioning the sacred capitalist system:

Part of the problem is this: these are the people who think the answer to everything is the free market. The notion that we, the people of the United States, could ever come together in a united way pool our resources, pool our energies and try to accomplish something for the public sector is a terrible idea. So there answer was the market the market the market.

It's a beautiful thing to see the sacred dogma of capitalism–the market–called into question and the idea that we are all in this together espoused. This energy problem is a global problem. If we want to emerge from it, we should tackle it together.

Barney Frank also stressed the fact that much of what we are facing has been caused by our way of life, something he admits was pushed on us. We were encouraged, he said, to live forty miles from work for the sake of our families. And now that lifestyle is hurting us. It is not a sustainable lifestyle. We need to live closer to where we work and closer to where our food is grown. We need to live in walkable communites that make automobiles an option not a necessity.

Ian McKellan was a joy to listen to. He misspeaks a little here. Gas isn't running out; cheap gas is running out. A small difference, but a difference to be sure.

"The problem isn't that the petrol gas prices are so high, but gas is running out. That's the news… everybody has an individual responsibility to that, including from the president down. But in this very small quote below Mr. McKellan manages to touch on the problems of Peak Oil, alternative ideas for energy, and the destructive side of car culture:

I just put solar panels on my house in London. You wouldn't think there was enough sunshine would you? But there is enough sunshine to provide my house with electricity. I sell electricity back to the national grid that I get for free from my roof. Now shouldn't everybody be doing that? All new houses in the UK are fitted with these tiles which provide them with free electricity. Why isn't the government persuading us as individuals that we can do something? What's a matter with going on your bike? I worked along Sunset Blvd. today for lunch from one hotel to another. There were only two of us walking along the busies street in L.A. We walked faster than the cars and faster than the bus…

You meet people on the streets. Cars are dreadfull things. You get inside them and you think that that's the world. It's not the world, and you don't own that bit of space you're in. People who live in cars go and do dreadful things to other people because they stop seeing them as human beings whom they might fall in love with or greet or shake hands with.

I mentioned a similar problem with our car culture in my post on Lack of a Civil Society. Cars separate us. This is all the more evident during demonstrations for peace and justice. Fellow citizens drive by at high speed and offer a honk or a middle finger, and that's our discourse. No town squares to meet in. The union halls are small places. And we're all relegated to our empty mobile cubicles as we motor down the road.

Published in: on May 19, 2006 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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