Articles by Jon Rynn
Jon Rynn is the author of Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the Middle Class, from Praeger Press. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science and lives with his wonderful wife and amazing two boys, car-less, in New York City.
There is no better reminder of the perils of the end of the cheap gasoline era than the article in today's New York Times, ""Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process," i.e., coal-to-liquids. This is the process that converts coal to diesel fuel, and while doing so, according to the NYT, emits 119 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional diesel. (David discussed the article this morning.)
Of course, the coal companies will allegedly "try" to sequester the carbon, a position which will inevitably move to "just too expensive" and "technical difficulties."
Dick Gephardt, of Democratic congressional fame, has even been recruited by the coal companies to lead the charge, complete with multibillion dollar subsidies for plants and floors on the price of the diesel that comes out.
Recently, in the post "Global Warming and the vision thing," I criticized the use of numbers in advocating policies, arguing instead on behalf of concrete images. Jon Warnow, a Step It Up 2007 organizer, responded to my post, and I thought it would be appropriate to give him the benefit of a separate post, along with my reply:
In today's New York Times, President Gerald Ford's energy adviser, in an article entitled "How to Win the Energy War," tries to use higher gas prices and oil dependence as an excuse to build more nuclear reactors:
The other major way to wean us from oil is to resume construction of nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is the cleanest and best option for America's electric power supply, yet it has been stalled by decades of unproductive debate. Our current commercial nuclear power plants have an outstanding record of safety and security, and new designs will only raise performance. How can Washington help? One thing would be federal legislation to streamline the licensing of new plants and the approval of sites for them.
His first way to wean us from oil is to gradually increase gas taxes. Ford's original energy independence plan might make you wince, as it included 150 new coal-fired plants and 200 nuclear power plants.
Not a word about global warming or peak oil, by the way. Not that mentioning those would help: Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to use global warming as a cover for more nukes, a trick that even Margaret Thatcher used as well.
Global warming activists have often advocated policies based on numerical goals or painted scary scenarios of the future. But there is a third way to advocate for long-term policies: propose solutions that contain a positive vision of a fossil fuel-free society.
The importance of this approach was underlined to me when I heard Betsy Rosenberg of the radio show Ecotalk interview Chip Heath, an author of the business-oriented book, Made to Stick. She asked Heath what he thought of the phrase "20% by 2020," that is, reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. She thought it had a nice ring to it ... until Heath responded, well, no, nothing turns people off like a bunch of numbers. Instead, the author advised environmentalists to use "concrete images."
Therefore, instead of talking about numeric targets for carbon emissions reductions in order to avoid hell on earth, I'd like to try to paint a picture of how to create a society that might be better than the one we live in now. In that spirit, let me propose the following scenario: