Happy Earth Day! Time to Give it Up!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicGlobal warming. Climate change. Hurricane Katrina. Hybrid cars. Retro-fitted houses. Solar panels. Wind turbines. Cap-and-trade. Smart grid. Energy Efficiency. Greenhouse gases. Environmental justice. Clean Air Act. Green jobs. Be Mock’D. Clean coal. Carbon capture and sequestration.
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Get familiar with these terms. Google ’em. Wikipedia ’em. Yahoo ’em. YouTube ’em. Spankwire ’em … ahem. No, really, learn these catchphrases, and not just because they’ll make you sound semi-smart in conversation. Know them because they are about to be the new vernacular of the coming decade. This week, the opening hearings for the The American Clean Energy and Security Act are taking place to discuss legislation that, if passed, will determine the nation’s new direction toward a “green” future.

Assembled before the House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, were the leaders of every major industry — oil, natural gas, coal, agriculture — heads of every major Cabinet department and agency, heads of every major environmentalist group, thinktank and economist circle. With the terms above also learn these names: Henry Waxman. Ed Markey. Lisa Jackson. Stephen Chu. Ray LaHood. Van Jones. Majora Carter. Peggy Shepherd. Carl Pope. Al Gore. Be Mock’D. John McCain.

At the heart of the bill is the issue of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, the principal trapper of heat in the air leading to the phenomenon we refer to today as global warming. For the most part, we’re already fucked. The global warming we’re feeling now is the result of Co2 that got packed in the air in the decades leading up to the 1970s. The Co2 we’ve put up there since the 70s is gonna have us on the hook for the next 30 years with  more droughts, possibly another Katrina or two, wildfires and a lil bit of sea-level rise that should put people with beachfront condos in major anxiety (I give Miami another 50 years tops; then it’s Atlantis.) All we can do for now is adapt.

The climate bill is seeking to save us from feeling the wrath of global warming, which would occur if Co2 levels reach upwards of 550 parts per million — right now we’re at right around 400 ppm, and need to get down to at least 350 by 2050. Otherwise, some real Revelations-like shit will be going down: like, lizards with seven heads, fish with eight titties, hail, brimstone, furious winds, the Four Horsemen — no punchline; shit will get real. So the legislation calls for four major proposals to reduce emissions: Renewable and clean energy investments (wind, solar, hydro power), energy efficiency measures (retrofitting buildings, weatherizing houses, hybrid cars), cap-and-trade regulations and transition through green jobs and adaptation.

The cap-and-trade section will be the most difficult to pass. Through this, a cap will be set by the federal government on how much Co2 can be emitted per year, with that cap level falling annually until we achieve zero emissions. Under that cap, every business will need allowances, or permits, for their carbon emissions. Those permits will either be bought through an auction, or will be allocated for free from the government, or some mix of both. If auctioned — which is the hope — the revenue the government draws from the sales would go to something like investments into new clean energy technology or rebates and tax credits to consumers as the cost for electricity will inevitably rise. Call it the new price for power, and we’ll all be chipping in, in one way or another.

Most of these measures won’t make it through Congress in tact, though. Republicans, particularly those in the Senate, will water the bill down so much (as only they can do so well) that it won’t make the reductions needed. I’ve been sitting through these hearings all week: hours and hours were spent over some of the silliest shit you’d never think would come from the minds and mouths of those who create U.S. law. For example, Representative John Dingell from Michigan asked with a straight face how oil and gas ended up under Alaska, and demanded an answer.

But ultimately the answers won’t come purely from new technology and market schemes. Much of these reductions are going to have to come from us — consumers/citizens. And buying cute little eco-sexy products like florescent light bulbs, and hemp tote bags, and “green” toilet cleaner isn’t going to do the trick. Most of the solutions will have to come from scaling back consumption: meaning not buying “green,” but reducing buying altogether. It’s here that all the magazines with their cute little special “green” issues are getting it all wrong. But I’ll get to that in my next post …

Be Mock’D is one of PLR’s featured contributors on the environment, politics and how the hood gets mocked by both. Read the rest of his opinions here.

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