Uncommitted For President
Super Tuesday was truly exciting! As a registered Democrat in
Colorado, I headed to my precinct caucus early on Tuesday, February 5.
It was a madhouse at Slavens Elementary School, where it seems we must
have gotten almost 100% turnout in precinct 331. I stood in line for 30
minutes before realizing that the only reason for standing in line was
to find out my precinct number (which I already knew).
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are fine people and undoubtedly a distinct
improvement on the Current Occupant. So when I finally got to my
precinct caucus, I proudly spoke out and cast my vote for President for
-- uncommitted. Here’s my argument for sending
"uncommitted" delegates to the convention, what I tried to
communicate (in somewhat fewer words, roughly the following three
paragraphs) to the caucus on Tuesday night.
The biggest political issue the next President will face is oil
depletion. Oil depletion and the impending peak of oil production is
a bigger issue than anything else the candidates have discussed
-- bigger issue than Iraq, health-care costs, and September 11 combined.
The consequences of being unprepared for peak oil are massive
unemployment, soaring food and energy prices, and an ongoing and deep
recession -- or depression. It’s basically going to be "the
1970's on steroids," as Roger Bezdek says.
We may not have reached the peak yet, but the supply of oil cannot
keep up with demand for oil now. That’s why anyone is even thinking
about the Canadian tar sands, an extremely expensive and environmentally
destructive source of oil; if they’re producing oil from the Canadian
tar sands, we know they’ve run through all the easy oil. That’s
also why President Bush recently went to Saudi Arabia and begged
the Saudis to increase their oil supply to lower oil prices. (He was
turned down.) That’s also why oil recently hit $100 a barrel, in spite
of the fact that there are no hurricanes in the Gulf, no urgent Middle
East crisis, and no summer driving season.
Does either Obama or Clinton have a plan to deal with peak oil? No.
We therefore have no way of telling which candidate is relatively better
on this issue, the most important one facing the country. With the
increasing demand from places like China, it is clear that faltering
supply cannot keep up with surging demand. If we are lucky, hey, we may
not hit peak oil for another 5 years or so. But if so, we must
absolutely not squander those 5 years: we must be preparing as rapidly
as possible. As the Hirsch
Report makes clear, we will need 20 years to prepare for peak
Let's be clear, America is a consumerist society that has never
consciously faced the implications of its consumption on the
planet. Our huge military budget, our involvement in Iraq, our
failure to address economic inequality, all of them spring from our
disproportionate use (and squandering) of resources. Yes, I know,
Bush has undertaken an aggressive war of choice in Iraq, but the
underlying condition of this war is our consumerism which neither party
has yet had the courage to address. Peak oil is a "teachable
moment" for the public both on the political aspects of resource
depletion and the spiritual aspects of consumerism.
Oil depletion, of course, may never become an issue in the campaign
for the nomination. The recession may send oil demand into the toilet,
"saving" us (and the candidates) from confronting this
problem. But it could become an issue. Oil supplies might
actually tighten further, OPEC might actually cut production, Bush might
even attack Iran, and we’d face sharply escalating prices and a major
campaign issue. Then we’ll be able to tell if either of them has a
clue, and that’s when we could commit to a candidate. This
issue is important enough, and the other differences between the
candidates are minimal enough, that it is worth taking this chance.
For renewable energy, both candidates seem to be firmly committed to
the lunacy of corn ethanol. They both pledge to increase production of
biofuels to 60 billion gallons (I presume annually) by 2030. Corn
ethanol actually increases greenhouse gas emissions because of
all the fossil fuel that corn production requires. In fact, because of
all the fossil fuels in agriculture, corn ethanol may not even increase
the total fuel supply. David Pimentel estimates that it actually takes
more fossil fuels to create ethanol than the corn ethanol replaces.
Even the optimists estimate the ratio of fuel output to fossil fuel
input at about 1.25. I’m sorry, but the Obama / Clinton position is
totally out of contact with reality. One 15-gallon tank of gas takes an
amount of corn with calories sufficient to feed a person for seven
months, and all this to do something which doesn’t help our supply
problem and makes global warming worse.
Well, I was outvoted at the caucus. My neighbors did listen politely
to what I had to say and I even got some scattered applause, but they
went for Obama 31, Clinton 21, and uncommitted 1 (me). Colorado went
overwhelmingly for Obama, but Clinton had some victories elsewhere, and
the overall outcome on Super Tuesday was pretty much a draw.
You could, in fact, say that the results of Super Tuesday were so
evenly split between Clinton and Obama that the Democratic Party is,
well, "uncommitted" on its choice for President.
Therefore, I claim victory in the Super Tuesday contest.
On to the convention!
February 8, 2008