Friday, June 2, 2017

Climate Accords and the Zamboni

When I was in High School, my history teacher, I think it was Mr. Hanson, was illustrating the Industrial Revolution.  He used an analogy to Hockey, his favorite and a highly popular sport way up on the Canadian border.  He told us that years ago, to resurface the ice in-between periods of a hockey game about 10 men would come out with buckets and mop the ice with fresh water to smooth the surface.  After a game the ice was scraped with a tractor and more water added and mopped smooth.  At least 10 men were hired to do this job and with the invention of the Zamboni, a ice resurfacing machine, 9 of those men were looking for work.  A new technology put people out of work.  But the fact was that the new technology needed people to help build the Zamboni, fabricate its parts and maintain the mechanical aspects of it.  A single Zamboni could create as many hours of labor in a given year as the mopping of the ice.  But even if it didn't, the Zamboni still made sense, it as safer, more efficient and made the smoothness of rinks more uniform.  We can be sad for the men with mops, but we can also think about helping them find other work and let progress take its course.  I truly wish Donald Trump had been in that class. He would have known that regardless of what he does with the Paris Climate Agreement, coal jobs are not coming back.  Pulling out of the agreement was a policy move that he promised his base and thus had to follow through on.  It was easy, he didn't really have to do much.  He knows the right wing noise machine and his 35% of hardcore followers would back him.  He also knew he had allies in Congress, who among other things, say that God will save us from Climate Change, that it is a hoax to make money for someone (not sure) or that the earth is actually cooling.  (Just to be clear that 12 of the hottest 13 years since 1880 have been in THIS CENTURY).  He just did it in the smug and ignorant fashion he does most things.  Heads of industry including fossil fuel industries urged him not to do it.  He adds the US to only 2 other countries who didn't sign on to the agreement.  Syria, because Syria and Nicaragua because they were protesting it didn't go far enough.  This is where we are now.

Of course the social media experts on both sides filled our feeds with all kinds of things.  Media scrambled to find two sides to facts.  Funniest moment was when former Senator Rick Santorum suggested that he didn't know how batteries work.  I think he had a phone in his hand at the time.  But in the end this agreement was at the pleasure of the President and the President pleasures himself with impulsive actions.  Thus today the world will stop looking at the US as a leader in this area and fears the US will not be a leader in others.  And what is remarkable is that the President could have had his cake and eaten it too.

You see there is an argument against the Paris Climate Agreement that makes sense.  Let me be clear I don't agree with it, I think it is dangerous and short sighted and will absolutely not work, but it is there.  And some in the right wing media that can go beyond hyperbole and nonsense (only in the 8 o'clock hour) and even Rex Tillerson, our titular Secretary of State (you know the former Exxon CEO who argued to stay in the agreement) have made the argument.  That the United State, a country leading in green energy and a country that has plenty of leaders committed to reducing greenhouse emissions doesn't need to be in the deal.  They can lead from the outside.  Secretary Tillerson said talking about the US efforts over the last decade or so that, “That was done in the absence of the Paris agreement,” Tillerson said. “I don’t think we’re going to change our effort to reduce our emission in the future, either.”  That could be the message.  But of course that won't be.  Even if it is not true.  I do not trust industry to police itself totally and I fear a government not willing to support the efforts of new technology to reduce emissions.  We will have to see.  I am glad that local and state governments will work hard to make their corners of our great country more earth friendly, but I also worry that with free rein efforts to skirt some of the targets we had agreed to will continue.  But elections have consequences and we have elections coming up every two years.  

What this won't do is bring back coal to what it used to be.  You see the coal industry suffers from being an inefficient source of energy in the new energy economy.  Natural gas (which I know has its own issues) is easier to get at, we have a lot of it and it is cheaper to transport and use whether as a source of heat for homes or to create electricity.  With the expansion of wind and solar energy, breakthroughs being made in tidal energy and of course sources still being developed in the minds of scientists (like algae as a biofuel) coal may just sit in the ground and hope to become diamonds.  Berkeley Energy Group, a Kentucky coal mining company, has partnered with a green energy group to build a solar farm on a strip mined area of the state.  This is telling.  But for President Trump, he doesn't understand the new energy economy, and can't get out of his own way.  He believes that if he does the right thing that the thousands of coal miners will be coming back to work digging coal in Kentucky.  He might as well tell the sons of the former mop and bucket brigade that they two will clean the ice for an NHL finals, I can't imagine what the President's argument might be, but maybe he will think Zamboni is a foreign company stealing American jobs.

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