Energy: Too Important to Leave to Corporations
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In some nations, electricity is actually generated and distributed by the government itself. In some countries, oil and gas production benefits everyone, not just CEOs.
In my own city, we have two small public electric utilities (and two public water companies, no less) whose customers are the envy of the region. Cleveland retains its municipal electric company today, thanks to the heroic legacy of former mayor Dennis Kucinich. It's pretty common for oil and gas companies to be state-run, profitable, and successful. That's the case in Brazil, Mexico, Norway, Venezuela, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
But in the United States, profits rule while the environment takes a back seat. Big Oil and the banks spend liberally on political campaigns, propaganda, and lobbyists whose job it is to steamroll government regulators so that environmental and public interests can be shunted aside.
Battles are presently raging over natural gas "fracking," the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, mountaintop removal mining, Arctic oil drilling, and nuclear reactors that have yet to be built or ought to be shut down. Defending the public interest are hundreds of grassroots and non-profit organizations.
Some European nations are even now responding to the ills of global warming, peak oil, and nuclear meltdowns by making renewable energy a national priority. Washington doesn't have this option, since we don't own our own energy, and the corporations that do aren't inclined to opt for conservation or safety.
Sure, we've seen the Obama administration gingerly raise fuel efficiency standards and demand lower mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Yet most of the nation's energy subsidies support our environmentally harmful fossil fuel, nuclear, and ethanol industries.
The Great Recession has masked the growing hazard of our energy dilemma. In a down economy, it's tough for voters to focus on global warming and environmental degradation. And with gasoline usagemomentarily reduced and natural gas prices deflated, why worry about the environment?
Do what you can to conserve energy and support organizations fighting for a more sustainable approach to our energy needs. They can rein in those scoundrels who own the mines, wells, and reactors — the ones who are leading us swiftly to environmental perdition.
William A. Collins, an OtherWords columnist, is a former Connecticut State lawmaker and the former mayor of Norwalk.