Sunday, December 05, 2010

Does Believing in Conservation Make Me a Conservative?

Third world garbage recyclers—the people who scavenge landfills for usable materials, testified against burning garbage to generate power at U.N. climate conference in Cancun. They rightly note that diverting the trash to incinerators will deprive them of their living and add tons of carbon into the atmosphere and argue for continuing this tradition and further supporting it as one solution to controlling greenhouse gasses. The waste-to-power scheme is the result of trading pollution credits under international law. Burning waste to generate power pollutes less than fossil fuel and earns credits that are used to offset emissions from coal plants that cannot meet standards. It’s a very orderly and rational market-based method for reducing overall emissions, don’t you see?

Unless, of course you rely on the garbage for your living or live downwind of either the waste incinerator or the coal plant. What has been created is a system that leaves populations still vulnerable to pollution, adds more carbon to the atmosphere, destroys a longstanding tradition of recycling and deprives some of the world’s poorest of their livelihoods. If this is the best solution to a critical environmental issue that we can come up with, we are doomed. Rightfully so, I will add.

We have a chance to forestall that doom—maybe—if we make wise choices now. One wise choice would be to designate the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge as a national monument, a decision that President Obama could make on his own authority. It would be an historic decision. An ANWR National Monument would protect a vast ecosystem, one of the last remaining on this continent, as part of America’s natural heritage. It would send a clear message that that the fossil fuel era is over, that our economy will look elsewhere for its energy. It would even give the Republicans some of the certainty they demand of public policy these days.

Not all Alaskans are enthused by the prospect.
That sounds nice, but it's a bad idea, said Wayne Stevens, president and CEO of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. He said there is a "huge disconnect" in this country between products people want and the resource development required to provide those products.

"We are shutting this country down," he said


Kara Moriarty, deputy director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, which speaks for the industry, said it is appalling that there is a push to lock up an area so rich in oil when fossil fuels will be needed to meet the nation's energy needs for decades to come.

On top of that, Alaskans overwhelmingly want ANWR opened to drilling, she said.

"I think it is another stunt to stop development in an area that is not even in their own back yards," Moriarty said. "It is our back yard and I find it offensive as an Alaskan."

As an American I find it offensive that some Alaskans claim the sole right to direct policy over national lands and resources within their borders. It’s even more offensive when they are shills for vested interests. I remind these sovereign Alaskans that “their back yard”, like the rest of the state, was purchased by the United States Government. The subsequent development and political organization of that land notwithstanding, much of Alaska remains federal land and is the nation’s back yard, not just Alaska’s. ANWR belongs to us all.

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