While the largest protest yet against the Keystone XL pipeline massed in front of the White House, President Obama was golfing in Florida with oil and gas company executives.
But on his first “guys weekend" away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge. They hit the links at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, which is owned by Crane and located on the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Fla.I will spare the obvious outrage. (Here's the story on some of the dealings of Jim Crane, the host for the weekend.) These executives, who have supported President Obama and Democrats, are people the president needs to work with to build a better grid and cut America's CO2 emissions.
Carroll is the chairman of CenterPoint Energy, a public utility company based in Houston, Texas. He is not a major donor to political candidates, having given just $5,800 since 2007, including a $2,300 donation to Obama's first presidential campaign. CenterPoint Energy benefited from the 2009 federal stimulus law signed by Obama through its receipt of $200 million in federal grant money to upgrade its system to a Smart Grid.President Obama needs to communicate with people who know how to integrate renewable power with our energy grid to make it work. And these were major Democratic donors in an industry that has strongly backed Republicans. This is how politics works.
The outrage isn't that the President went golfing with oil and gas men while thousands protested. The outrage is that Washington is captured by rent seekers who are reaping billions of dollars from maintaining the status quo while the planet approaches meltdown. The outrage is that Jim Hanson is out protesting instead of meeting with Steven Chu and the president to find solutions to the building planetary crisis. The outrage is that the President has not worked with progressive economists such as Paul Krugman and Joesph Stiglitz to find economically effective ways to grow employment and improve economic performance by transitioning our economy to modern carbon free energy.
It is outrageous when the United States has the world's largest defense budget but fails to act boldly on the biggest threat to global security - climate change. High food prices, caused by drought, started the first Arab spring protests in Tunisia. Those protests started the domino like fall of governments across the middle east and north Africa. The Arab spring is but a foreshadowing of the global insecurity that unchecked climate change will bring. All our smart bombs, predator drones and high tech weapons systems cannot do a thing about drought and food and water shortages. Trillions spent on defense do nothing to make us secure in a world of growing drought and food shortages. Most of our money spent on defense is not making us more secure. It is going to defense contractors who collect rent from the government.
America goes from fake crisis to fake crisis while the real problems are ignored. The fiscal cliff, the sequester and all the day to day crap in Washington distracts us while Wall Street and the too big to fail banks make us slaves to usury and declining real wages. The financial industry is literally collecting trillions of dollars in rent, imposed by contracts enforced by the government, while average Americans watch their wages and wealth shrink. Government debt is not the problem. Usury, financial fraud and the government complicity are the problem.
The visionaries and leaders who can solve economic and environmental problems are mostly on their own. Visionaries like Elon Musk have shown what's possible - Space X and Tesla electric cars - when the government helps develop new technology. However, we need an effort like the Manhattan Project to modernize our energy and transportation industries. Virtuous actions in the United States will be inadequate to solve the climate crisis. We need to develop solutions that will work in China, India and the developing world where most of the growth in global carbon emissions is happening.
We can chose to lead towards hope for a brighter future. But that future will be impossible to reach if we allow uncontrolled consumption driven by mindless market forces and unbridled greed. We are on the path to consume every piece of the planet that can be sold for a profit.
I was fortunate to know several of the visionaries that led the Manhattan Project. Ironically, the ones I knew were very conservative. Scientific and technological creativity is not bounded by partisan political limits. The leaders of the Manhattan project ranged from socialists to Dr Strangelove, Ed Teller. They worked together to prevent a global catastrophe.
We aren't working together now because we have a false debate with artificial limits and dishonest discussion. The dishonesty is perpetrated by billionaires collecting rent checks by maintaining government enforcement of the status quo. They fund fake groups like the Tea Party. They own fake news outfits like Fox News. They make billions from oil, wars and lies.
They are destroying democracy, the middle class and the natural systems that support life on this planet.
President Obama should meet with leaders of the energy sector. That is not the outrage. The outrage is that he is not hearing a full range of perspectives from visionaries who could find a way to avoid the economic, ecological and global security catastrophes that unchecked climate change will cause.