Flat Earthers

This entry is part 2 of 47 in the series Blog1

President Obama is upset that many on the Right are not accepting his efforts to discourage drilling for oil and placing all bets on a hopeful future development of alternative fuels. On March 15th he said, “if some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably must have been founding members of the flat earth society. They would not believe that the world was round!”

It seems that the Democrats are throwing around this flat earth accusation almost as loosely as they do racism attacks. The President is far from the first to use this line of attack and will not be the last.

Instead of just lashing back we need to ask ourselves dispassionately if there is any truth to the flat earth accusations. In doing this we need to clarify exactly what is meant by the flat earth description.

The basic idea is that most people in the days of Columbus thought the earth was flat and outright rejected all evidence to the contrary. In other words, a flat earther is one who is so fixed on myth and tradition that he cannot be convinced by obvious evidence that a new discovery is valid.

That said, it is amusing that Obama’s statement indicating the flat earth belief in the days of Columbus is somewhat flat earth in itself. This Middle Age belief has now been proven to be a myth that was started in the late eighteenth century.  A good book clarifying the subject is “Inventing the Flat Earth” by Jeffrey Russell. He explains that the popular writers of the day who mention the shape of the earth all assume it to be a globe.  These include such notables as, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Roger Bacon, writers of travel narratives like John Mandeville, and many others.

It is amusing then that in buying into the myth of the flat earth belief in the days of Columbus the President is buying into a myth just as he accuses the Republicans as embracing myth.

It is also almost laugh-out-loud funny that Daniel Shenton, the actual president of the Flat Earth Society, which still believes the earth is flat, supports Obama’s belief in man-made global warming from which his stop the drilling belief is largely based. He tweeted, “most Flat Earth Society members generally accept climate change/global warming.”  Obama and real live flat earthers of today are on the same page with global warming and orthodox saving the planet schemes.

Maybe in a future speech the President will correct himself and praise the Flat Earth Society for its support of his policies.

That said, we know that the President was insinuating that conservatives were a backward lot with little sense of truth or vision of positive change. In taking this view he was buying into a straw man image of conservatives on the subject of energy, which is:

(1) All they want to do is drill baby drill.

(2) They are against conservation measures

(3) They are against the development of alternative energies.

In other words, the image they present of the Right is that they are Neanderthals who only see one way to get energy and that is to drill for oil as we have drilled in the past and do more of it. They see this as crazy because we have limited resources and if we just drill for oil without developing alternative sources then they day will come that we will have no oil and no alternative sources and then where will we be? We’ll be screwed – civilization would collapse with no energy and we’ll revert back to the stone age with a ruined environment.

Now, if this were true then Obama would indeed be justified in calling the Right flat earthers, but is this view accurate?  Let us go through the portrayal of the Right and see.

(1) They just want to “drill baby drill.”

False. While it is true that most on the Right do want more drilling that is not all they want.

(2) They are against clean alternative energy.

False. All of them I know of support developing alternative fuels and energy. They support any alternative energy source that is clean and would not be a drain on the economy to produce.

(3) They do not care if we pollute the air.

False.  Almost all conservatives and libertarians care about pollution of all kinds and will support common sense measures to insure we have clean air and water.

(4) They are not concerned about increasing fuel economy and conserving energy.

Mostly false. There are a handful of conservatives that do not seem concerned about conserving energy. Some of the more affluent ones seem unconcerned about driving a gas-guzzler or flying a lot in private or commercial jets. Some do not like the energy saver bulbs and refuse to use them.

On the other hand, there are many liberals who teach to us to conserve energy yet also drive gas-guzzlers, fly on private jets and hate the compact fluorescent bulbs.

The Left is much more vocal about conserving energy but in deed it is questionable that they are any better in practice than the Right. Al Gore, for instance, is perhaps the most vocal proponent of conserving fossil fuels has a mansion that burns about twenty times the energy as the average home and flies regularly in private jets.

Unknown by many, George W Bush was quite a green president. According to a 2001 Chicago Tribune article, his “4,000-square-foot house in Crawford Texas is a model of environmental rectitude.

“Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this “eco-friendly” dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize.

“A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.

“No, this is not the home of some eccentrically wealthy eco-freak trying to shame his fellow citizens into following the pristineness of his self-righteous example. And no, it is not the wilderness retreat of the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, a haven where tree-huggers plot political strategy.”

Some on the Right and Left are careless about conserving energy, but contrary to perpetual accusations many on the Right support conserving energy and have a modest carbon footprint. Even though I’m best categorized as a Libertarian I’m often accused by liberals as being ultra conservative, which I think is kind of silly. They would probably be surprised to know that when I last took an online test to determine my carbon footprint that mine was about half the average person. For most of my life I’ve driven a car that gets good miles per gallon and I’ve used energy saving bulbs from the time they first came out. My wife, who used to work for the state department of energy, is diligent about keeping the house around 68 degrees in the winter and no lower than about 78 degrees in the summer.

I know that I’m not alone.  From my personal observations it seems to me that the Right is about as energy conscious as the Left.

So, if the Left’s straw man portrayal of the Right is not accurate how should they be portrayed?  The answer is quite simple.

The Right does indeed want to drill domestically for oil as needed. They feel that it is presently essential to decrease our need for foreign, especially overseas oil. Just as the oil boom in North Dakota has created the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, more domestic oil production would create more jobs at home and eventually lower the world price on oil and gas. Most are supportive of alternative energies and believe that they will replace much of our oil use but there is no way of knowing how long that will be. Until cost effective alternatives can replace fossil fuels they believe it would be reckless to not drill for the domestic oil that we need. Just as whale oil was a bridge to fossil fuel dominance even so is oil a bridge to the dominance of new more environmentally friendly energy sources.

Does this sound like a flat earth, primitive, illogical approach? I don’t think so.

So what is the approach of the President and his supporters toward drilling for oil and developing alternatives?

He regularly ridicules the phrase, “drill baby drill,” and keeps telling us that we cannot drill our way to energy independence. He often tells us what an insignificant effect on price and supply drilling for more oil will accomplish, as if it is a flat earth thing to do. But then he opened up the strategic reserves in an attempt to lower oil prices which added much less to supply than would additional drilling and accomplished very little except weaken our national defense capabilities.

Even though the President’s Air Force One, his limousines, buses, heating systems, etc run on oil based fuels he seems bent on restricting drilling.

For proof of this attitude we need look no further than Obama’s energy secretary, Stephen Chu. According to the Wall Street Journal (2008) he advocated that to wean Americans off gasoline, the administration should make the people pay more for fuel: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

On Feb 28th of this year, as reported by Politico, Chu told Congress that Obama’s Department of Energy “isn’t working to lower gasoline prices directly” but “is working to promote alternatives such as biofuels and electric vehicles.”

When Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., specifically asked Chu whether the Obama administration’s goal is to lower gas prices, he starkly replied, “No.”

This explains why Obama was against drilling in ANWR, against the Keystone Pipeline and reluctant to expand oil drilling permits.

In place of drilling he is betting on the idea that alternative energies, particularly wind and solar, will fill the energy gap. But Solyndra and other failures tell us that we may need fossil fuels longer than the Left thinks. What happens if we cut down on oil production and alternative energy sources take 30-40 years longer to perfect?  We could soon be paying over $10 a gallon.  Who would then be considered the flat earther if that happens?

Between the two approaches to energy I would say that the approach of the Right is a much more logical one. In addition Gallup has revealed that a majority, 60% of the people, support more domestic drilling.

If the two sides would just quit demonizing each other and seek to correctly understand and represent the other’s point of view while considering the will of the people we should be able to arrive at areas of agreement on energy and move forward.

Copyright 2012 by J J Dewey


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