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King: Don’t buy the case for keeping the status quo

POSTED: February 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Two weeks ago Congress raised automotive fuel efficiency standards from 25 mph to 35 mph. Big whoop de do!

It’s only taken Congress 32 years to do it, and it isn’t as if we couldn’t see the gas crunch coming. The country‘s been warned over and over again that oil is a finite commodity largely controlled by foreign nations, and furthermore, that burning fossil fuel releases CO2 and contributes to global warming.

And when are these new emission standards to go into effect? Twelve years from now. Come on, people.

Our oil dependence is hurting us today. Global warming is occurring right now. The really sad part of it all is that a majority of the men and women in Congress were behind a better bill, but they were one vote short of the super-majority needed to override a presidential veto. A single vote!

Had either of Georgia’s senators stood up to the Southern Co. and other coal and oil interests, had they mandated that a relatively small amount of energy be generated from renewable resources, the country would have at least been on a pathway to energy independence.

This is a national security issue, folks. Unfortunately, our politicians prefer to focus on less complicated and more emotionally charged threats. It’s easier to garner votes by scaring the public with images of 9/11 and radical Islamic clerics than by addressing the slow but inevitable loss of national independence due to our insatiable appetite for foreign oil.

We could blame the present administration because President Bush threatened to veto any bill that interfered with the way utilities did business, but we all knew from the beginning that he and his vice president were big oil people. His secretary of state has an oil tanker named after her, for pity’s sake.

We could blame Congress because they go along in order to get along, but they are trapped by the way we finance our elections. We can hardly expect them to bite the hand that feeds them.

Unfortunately, the American public has allowed its government to sidestep one of the most important factors in any nation’s long-term welfare: the relationship between energy production and the environment. Worse, when a state like California does recognize the need to address this issue and attempts to mandate its own fuel efficiency standards, the government gets in the way.

California and 16 other states want to adopt laws that would slash greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks by a third, but to do so they need a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has refused, though they have a history of granting similar waivers on demand. What’s going on here?

This column simply asks the question: Who holds power in America today? In a democracy power is supposed to lie with the people, but the people are divided and easily spooked. Every time a solution to one of our long-term problems is proposed, the forces in control of our economy employ scare tactics to preserve the status quo.

National health coverage? Can’t do that. It’s socialized medicine, and you won’t be allowed to choose your own doctor.

Regulate carbon emissions to fight global warming? Can’t do that. It might raise the price of gas.

Bring our troops home from Iraq? Can’t do that. They’re fighting terrorists there so we won’t have to fight them here.

None of these rationalizations have been substantiated. They are simply scare tactics used by those who stand to gain from leaving things as they are, and the public seems to fall for them every time. So we go on with a failing medical system, rising CO2 levels, and a war that is draining billions of dollars from our treasury each week.

It’s time the American public took back its power, but to do so we have to work together instead of allowing others to divide us.

We are entering a New Year. Let’s make some resolutions. When someone uses scare tactics, do a little research. Don’t believe any one author. Read both sides of the issue.

Don’t allow ideology to trump workable solutions. For example, abortion is a highly charged issue, but both abstinence-only programs and the gag rule that denies U.S. help to any clinic that even mentions abortion have only resulted in more pregnancies, and often, an even higher abortion rate.

We cannot continue to allow self-
serving forces to divide the country and undermine our democracy.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on
gainesvilletimes.com.



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