Sustainability and the Democratic leadership

I’ve been mulling over the potential for an Obama presidency to render a positive result for sustainable energy in our country. Understand this is a brainstorm on my part. I’d love to possess deeper knowledge about alternative energy technologies than I do, but presently my understanding of them is fledgling.

Everybody’s favorite treehugger, Al-Gore, was interviewed by NPR yesterday afternoon. The conversation focused on coal power plants and the potential for “clean coal.” I was amazed that Gore merely went along with the conversation instead of breaking out and mentioning the fact that coal is a fossil fuel, and not sustainable in the long-term. If you’re a vision casting celebrity like Al-Gore, why not move the conversation ahead by acknowledging the reality of coal in the short-term and pressing for sustainable energy solutions as soon as possible?

Regardless of Al Gore’s celebrity stump for the environment, the Democrats are typically strong in the green category. They are more likely to create green policy, and they are also more likely to spend money on environmental incentives, programs and research.

Also on the radio yesterday were reports of the big three automakers’ return to Washington D.C., this time in hybrids, sans the corporate jets. Their change of heart, a direct result of being laughed out of the city last month, is humorous.


I’d personally prefer some tough years and a recession to more federal debt, be it for bailouts or alternative energy. Further, letting the automakers fail has the potential to bring about more lasting cultural change than new policies and more federal money for green research. The high gas prices of this year already did that to a degree; more people are riding bicycles and taking public transit. A few more years of this and there might be an even broader openness to New Urbanism, to well designed cities that don’t use the automobile as a crutch. I’m also generally a fan of letting the automakers reap from their own short-sighted business models. Washington bureaucrats bailing out industries is no more a sustainable model of government than coal is a sustainable means of creating electricity.

Will it be worthwhile to sink billions into alternative energy sources as the Democrats might do? Where will the money come from? When will we have a balanced budget? I was horrified to hear Obama’s upcoming economic adviser say something to the effect that “balancing the budget isn’t important” in a recent interview. It was in the context of the current financial crisis, but I don’t care. The federal government should be able to balance the budget, or that government should be replaced with leadership that can. The one exception I might allow for is a time of war (particularly something like a World War, when our own soil is threatened, as opposed to whatever it is that’s happening in Iraq right now).

I hope that the United States will achieve energy independence in the near future. Our country should be self-sustaining. Trade is all well and good, but the strings that come with things like oil dependence are anything but good. See the current Iraq conflict. I would rather see our nation’s role in the oil-rich Middle East as peacemaker.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

A multitude of energy options already exist. Coal, natural gas, oil, hydro, wind, nuclear and solar for starters. There is no energy production that is completely free of environmental impact; sorry, Al-Gore. In a conversation with a friend a few years ago he pointed out that wind turbines desertify surrounding land. Solar involves development of panels and batteries that wear out. Fossil fuels bother the global warming crowd, and besides that they just aren’t going to last indefinitely. Development always bears a certain impact that can be viewed as negative, but that’s part of humanity subduing the earth as God intended. We just have to do it in the best way possible. We cut down trees, we plant more. We create a hydroelectric dam, we do it in the most enduring and least invasive way possible.

Simply put, we act as good stewards of all of our resources, as a country, as states and as individuals.

Image from PostSecret.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to Sustainability and the Democratic leadership

  1. Tim J. says:

    You know, one thing they could do that would pump a lot of money into “infrastructure” projects (as they have said they want to do) AND help greatly reduce the need for fossil fuels would be to invest in greatly beefed-up mass transit systems.

    But I don’t see it happening because it would be bad for the American auto makers, who’s unions heavily supported Obama and the Democrats with cash and free campaign support.

    It’s a golden opportunity to establish rail lines like they have in Europe (which I really enjoyed while I was there briefly), but again… unfortunately, I don’t see it happening.

  2. pNielsen says:

    I’d love to see rail like that across the country. My wife and I wanted to take Amtrak to the East Coast for vacation a few years ago, but it costs more than flying! Rail could be so much more convenient and pleasurable as a means of travel, especially for moderate distances.

    However, I don’t see it happening either.

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