THE ENVIRONMENT: WITH ALL DUE RESPECT
”Organic vegetables, free range live-stock, clean air and water and alternatives to fossil fuels. Is that environment too much to ask for?”
WHAT WE COULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW
By Jason SwiftWith all due respect, we’re missing a crucial part of the conversation. Cattle ranching creates more greenhouse gasses, damage to the environment and deforestation than the entire transportation industry combined. So, maybe the vegans have the answer. Not entirely, because to feed a vegetarian/vegan world, clearing land for crops would also create vast environmental damage. Unless we constructed immense vertical gardens and farms. Even if we chose to eat “healthier” meat we would need huge wildlife refuges for free-range livestock grazing covering over half of the United States; so what are the alternatives?
There are experiments being field tested today for converting methane from human waste into energy. Methane: the ‘other’ natural gas. One thing this world is full of… Those truly concerned about the environment could be moving toward alternatives right now that could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and cut our emissions from industrial waste 30-40%. With a little cooperation we could accomplish this before any of the divisive arguments ever get started over Climate Change. The debate on the environment in Congress has less to do with the environment and more to do with money.
For example, the environmental movement from the left along with the EPA are responsible for massive GDP declines in the U.S. When a factory has to shut down because of the unreasonable demands put on emissions, the health effects that aren’t taken into consideration become detrimental for thousands of Americans who’ve lost good paying jobs.
Combined with that are the corporate and conservative interests on the right who refuse to admit that mankind has had any effect on the environment whatsoever. The smog that’s been permeating our metropolitan skylines and all the oil that’s been saturating indigenous lands since the Industrial Revolution began is not worth taking into consideration apparently.
Once they were able to end public service announcements the Native American rowing his canoe through a river of garbage or crying by the side of the road went the way of all the other public awareness messages. God forbid any public money goes to make people aware of what’s going on around them anymore.
Another hurdle is free trade. We’re already operating at a deficit when environmental issues are considered. There is no level playing field in that respect. Large corporations can afford to offset some of the expense, but smaller manufacturers are the ones who get hit with stiff compliance regulations that are virtually affordable without some kind of assistance.
Since trade is “free” the tariffs that would have been a source of revenue to assist a company to retool over a period of time are not available. The opportunity to preserve jobs and domestic manufacturing, while still making positive gains with the environment is rendered non-existent through shortsighted, pro-active knee-jerking.
Oil is big. Let’s cut our usage of petrochemicals and shift to agricultural cellulose for plastics and other materials. Approximately two thirds of each barrel of crude is used for gasoline and diesel fuel. The other third is used for plastics, textiles (hemp and cotton vs trees) and many other applications not required for energy production. Chemicals and excessive livestock consumption are polluting our water systems.
Since Zero Population Growth went out the window after the 70’s the planet’s concern for over population has never been a consideration for anyone except National Geographic, the World Food Prize and the United Nations.
Nuclear Energy has also been a major issue since Three Mile Island. There is alternative reactor technology that’s been banging around the drawing boards since the 60’s that partnerships like MIT and Transatomic Power have been redeveloping. Not only is it much safer, portable and more cost effective it also runs on nuclear waste. Spent nuclear waste is running out of storage space. We could convert our nuclear waste into energy for a hundred years with any new energy taken at minimal cost to the environment.
“Waste from conventional reactors is fuel for our reactors. Light water reactors consume only about 4% of the energy in their uranium fuel, which means that their spent fuel rods contain vast amounts of untapped energy and remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Our reactors can consume this waste, generating enormous amounts of electricity, while reducing its radioactive lifetime to only hundreds of years.” – Source
We have enabled a heavy addiction to fossil fuels. The main reason is that oil is still the most economical energy source we have to date. Unfortunately since our dollar is backed by nothing but oil, the falling gas prices will have some relative effect on the economy; one reason that moving to alternative energy sources will continue to be the slow uphill battle it always was.
Want to save more fuel and cut emissions? Stop shipping Florida oranges to California and California oranges to Florida! Consider that concept in context to all shipping on a global level.
Economics studies have revealed evidence that fracking and other sourcing of fossil fuels has reduced our trade deficit noticeably with China. Unfortunately it is in the manufacturing end or the Walmart and retail sector where the deficit continues to widen. Another result of the death of domestic manufacturing of common goods in America as a result of Free Trade combined with aggressive environmental activism. This is a good example of both parties shooting themselves in the foot and leaving the entire country hanging on their inaction.
There are many ways to improve upon the imperfect or obsolete technologies we already have in place while we look toward other alternatives. Are these stop-gap measures the solution to all our energy woes? Of course not, but it’s some positive gain. And every one of them is a way to provide jobs and economic growth by localizing supply chains and shifting manufacturing to alternative materials proven to work or soon to be coming off the drawing board.
But we’re still not done because there are market forces to contend with. That’s always the primary cop-out when new technologies try to compete in the so called free market. We say all life is sacred and priceless, but we’ve managed to put a price tag on everything, including the most basic survival mechanisms like healthcare and education. In a faux-capitalist economy money will always be prioritized over human life when choices have to be made.