Saturday, June 19, 2010

Common Sense Environmentalism

While likely to make some short-term political hay, these attacks on British Petroleum and all things fossil fueled will backfire soon enough. (Followed closely by backpedaling politicians.) Soon enough, as we learned a couple of summers ago, is when gas at the pump nears $4.00 a gallon. The price is steady now, falling even, but that's mostly because the economy is flat.

And the price of gas is only part of it. It seems we need constant reminding that Big Oil is only partially represented by the image of the gas station and the fuel pump. Virtually everything of every-day use is in part or whole a petroleum product. Go ahead, gaze around the room your in right now. Not a pump in sight and I'll wager that at least half of what you're looking at is made in some fashion or another from fossil fuels. Grandstanding politicians can, and will, demonize petroleum as long as you'll fall for it, but at the end of the day, we're still going to need, want, and demand oil and that which proceeds from it.

I think one of the reasons (certainly not the only) our government representatives think picking on Big Oil is a political no-brainer is that they over-interpret the broad support that so-called environmentally friendly policies enjoy. If you poll the average American on just about anything "green", he's very likely to say, "Sure, I support that."

He's likely to support it, first, because he really hasn't stopped to consider the cost in either money or freedom of implementing whatever policy the pollster asks him about. Those costs are not always immediately evident, but if and when they become so, ask him again. I suspect the results of the poll will change.

But I think there's another reason the average American supports, at least initially, almost anything packaged as "green". He does so because although he thinks of himself as an environmentalist, he means something entirely different by it than does your typical self-anointed, anti-progress, chicken little-like, misanthrope who claims to speak (lecture, actually) for the cause on virtually every cable TV news channel that'll provide him with a soap box. (Whew! Glad I got that off my chest.)

Instead, your average American adheres to what I call "common sense environmentalism". Its meaning is captured most succinctly by the old saw that "you shouldn't crap where you eat." (It's usually voiced more colorfully, but this is a "family" blog.) He really means nothing more than that. As a result, politicians who share this common-sense view should be emboldened to oppose the ridiculous schemes and constraints advanced by the more formally credentialed crazies who have dominated this issue for far too long.