Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Screeds (I like that word) ...

Iraqis face an uncertain future. They can either have a continued occupation by American troops, where Iraqi non-combatants get caught in the cross fire between Americans and insurgents of whatever stripe. Or the Americans will leave, and the Iraqis, who have seen their professional class decimated in a wave of kidnappings and killings in 2004, will have to try to run their country without engineers and doctors and lawyers, although they do have a surplus of thugs. The best part is they have no control over what happens, they are subject to the whims of the American people and Congress. We wanted to export our brand of democracy, and that’s exactly what we did.

I bring the Iraqi situation up because I hear people, as the economy worsens, voicing opinions (loudly and rudely) that would not pass the grandchild test. The grandchild test, probably reminiscent of (one of) Kant’s Categorical Imperatives, is whether you could imagine telling your grandchildren they should do this thing. Take drilling off the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and/or in the ANWR. Let’s say the liberals are wrong about it taking ten years to get the oil; that oil could come out of these places within six months. But how long is the oil projected to last? Ten years? Twenty? So our grandkids will face a future without oil. Of course, we will have been preparing for that future all along, with new solar power and wind initiatives, right? Well the best predictor of our future behavior is our past behavior, and the last seven years of the Bush administration (or the previous eight, or the twelve before that) we did nothing. So the drill now people are like the invade Iraq now people were in 2003. No long term plan for the future.

I have gotten myself involved with the national 55 mph speed limit movement in a tiny way, signing up to be a local resource for Drive55.org. The people who argue against the 55 mph speed limit are interesting. They almost all call the idea stupid (using that word in particular). Some also cite statistics or studies, most of which probably come from right wing think tanks, or from the objectors own personal experience. So they say traffic accidents went down after the 55 mph speed limit was ended, or their last car got better mileage at 65 (or 75) than it does at 55 mph. Sometimes they make the personal argument. One fellow at a hypermiling website (hypermiling is the practice of driving in such a way as to maximize fuel economy) first said that instead of a 55 mph speed limit we should remove/retrain the incompetents who don’t maximize their own mileage (so taking away driver’s licenses is preferable to driving 55) and then said that there is a stretch of a California highway where he can nurse his Prius downhill at 70mph and navigate the small uphills only on battery power, where his gas powered motor would turn on if he went 55 mph. Therefore, because he gets better mileage at 70 mph in this one spot in one type of car using obscure driving techniques, no 55 mph speed limit for anyone.

I think the 55 mph speed limit passes the grandchild test. If you are going to drive a gas powered car, don't waste this finite and scarce resource. I think not drilling now in the OCS passes the grandchild test. Let's wait, see how bad it gets, and drill when we really need to live, not just to maintain a wasteful lifestyle. I think solar and wind and bicycling all pass the grandchild test. Do things that don't use resources your grandkids might really need.

Iraq, drilling now, driving 65, 75, 85... You kids stop that, now.

No comments: