Green Energy Progress, Democratic Regression

James Sasso, Associate Editor

In the past week there have been more instances of real “green-energy” progress in America, where changes actually occur instead of only existing in the mythical realm of political rhetoric, than in the past several years combined. Certainly the past couple of years, especially under Obama, have shown politicians generally in favor of cleaning up the environment (except for when politicians need to be elected from fossil fuel producing states), but there has been little actual action in those years. Instead, failures such as the Copenhagen Climate Council and several failed initiatives in the American Congress, have inhibited the absolutely necessary change from polluting fuels to renewable ones. About 68 percent of Generation Y believes that environmental problems need to be attended to, which means that once again, Washington has failed to address an issue of concern to America’s youth.

Yes politicians claim to desire change to our archaic environmental policies, but few actually attempt any real progress. As such, it comes as no surprise that the recent slate of environmental progress comes from powers that have no “Congress” (read: ineffective leadership) to whom to answer. The most minor of initiatives, though with perhaps the largest reaching social effects, was the Obama’s announcement that the White House would soon become outfitted with solar panels to heat water and provide electricity to the building.

While Obama’s declaration only improves the environmental impact of one building, the social ramifications of his decision could be enormous. The President is, arguably, the most important person in the world. His choices and beliefs not only impact those of leaders across the world, but of the people who live in America. We, as people, look up to the president, at least in the abstract. His supporters view him as a role model whose model of energy conservation is worth following, and hopefully they will follow his lead along with other world leaders, thus creating a system of individuals contributing to the larger cause of ending the human impact on our environment, which, if left unchanged, will incur major catastrophes onto human society.

In the same breath of significant but not world changing events in the green-energy world, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave final approval to the first ever large solar plants to be built on federal land: those in the California desert. The two projects alone could produce enough energy to power 556,00 homes. These approvals will not be the last, according to Salazar, and hopefully this will lead to increased construction of green-energy plants that can help lead this world away from the devastating polluting ways of past generations.

Still, these plants alone are not enough. There needs to be a nationwide revamping of our energy system so that it could handle the new energy without being excessively wasteful. Also, green energies themselves need to be improved upon to where they do not inhibit the lives of ordinary citizens, as some claim windmills do. Though, if you ask me, clean, safe, reliable, cheap energy is a fair trade off for a bit of excess noise.

The last, and likely most realistically important, announcement in the field of green energy came from a source that one usually would  label as conservative and, therefore, likely opposed to any sort of green-energy initiative: the military. Using fossil fuels to power its armies, ultimately, is a bad idea. Fossil fuel transports are easy targets for militants. Perhaps even worse, these fuels, which cost the military one dollar per gallon at wholesale, can cost up to 400 dollars per gallon to transport because of the inherent risk in transporting literal moving bombs across hostile territory. The military has decided that to save costs and increase security (they no longer will  have to deal as much with enemy countries to purchase fuel), they will initiate a program to move away from fossil fuels and explore the possibility of using renewable fuels, such as solar paneled tents and on-site-grown algae fuels, to replace carbon based power.

This can be seen as the most significant green-energy advancement because the military is generally far ahead of civilian society when it comes to technology. For example, the laser, the microwave, modern computers and many other household technologies find their origins in military uses. Perhaps green-energy will be the next big everyday technology to emerge from the military. Maybe their mass use of it will drive down the cost for the average family, making it all the more appealing. If green-energy technology succeeds in the military, one can guarantee that it will take off in the civilian setting.

Besides the obvious environmental significance of these announcements, one can see why Generation Y has become disengaged with modern politics. Of the major sources promoting these innovative and necessary changes to the use of fossil fuels, none were of a true democratic power. The president, though elected, simply stated that his residency will have solar power, a declaration not requiring any democratic process. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did not have to consult Congress to approve companies to build solar plants on federal land. And, finally, the military, which obviously operates under laws differing from the Constitution, simply decided that green-technologies should be instated. None of these had to be funneled through Congress.

What does it say about our leaders and about our government, who generally promise to Generation Y that they will help fix a problem affecting America’s youth, that they cannot so much as pass a climate act while individual powers such as the military and companies are taking huge steps towards this green movement?

Perhaps Congress should look past their petty squabbling and narcissistic desires to do what is best for the country and what is best for the next generation of leaders. Perhaps Congress should learn from China, private companies and our own military who are rapidly investing in and developing green technologies. Does this not say that it is the wave of the future, that our country could perhaps benefit both environmentally and economically from an increased interest in renewable energies?  Sometimes our democracy functions so well…

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