Earth Day 40th Anniversary: Is Energy Policy Headed In The Wrong Direction?

This coming Thursday, April 22nd will be the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. This is a day that people are encouraged to think about the environment, and the effects that man’s day to day activities have upon the earth. It started as a movement based in college teach-ins on the west coast, and would eventually be recognized as an official day that issues effecting the environment come to the fore.

40 years later, there is good reason to believe that the work of these early environmental activists have been seriously set back in the name of political expediency.  President Obama has green-lit two energy initiatives that stand in sharp contrast to the stated goals of the environmental movement in the past 40 years.  With a new call for off-shore drilling and new nuclear power plants, there is much for those who are concerned about the environment to consider.

The oil companies and monied interests; e.g. nuclear power advocates have much to be happy about. Those cognizant of the long term effects of these forms of energy do not, and should be up in arms about this latest maneuver. The negative environmental impact of both practices are well known, and if Three Mile Island,  Chernobyl, and Exxon-Valdez don’t mean anything to you, then these new initiatives open up the possibility of painful new reminders of the downsides of attempting to utilize these outmoded energy sources.

In addition to opening up the possibility of new environmental disasters, it should also be noted that both of these initiatives are non-solutions to the energy crisis. Drilling off the waters of the Atlantic Coast will prove lucrative to the oil companies, at the expense of cleaner shores of course. In as far as, “getting us off dependency on foreign oil” it may just amount to a drop in the bucket. There are some estimates that in total, there may only be a 100 days worth of oil that are extractable.  Expedient? Yes. A solution to the energy crisis. Not by a longshot.

Perhaps that is the reason that the oil industry is not concerned about even nuclear power as an “alternative”, because there is no danger of replacement on a large scale, not to mention the safety issues about nuclear waste storage and uranium contaminated water.

In all this, where is the green movement? It appears as if all of this talk about green energy and green jobs amounts to nothing more than just buzzwords and corporate rebranding(a.k.a Greenwashing). Or are the green movement and the environmentalist movement two separate things? Instead of investing research and development funds into yielding more energy from solar, wind, and other cleaner sources of power, the country is taking two steps back into the dark ages. Its almost as if the green movement and the enthusiasm behind it was utilized, coopted, and then jettisoned for the purposes of proceeding with business as usual.

When we sell the environment short, we also sell ourselves short. Make no mistake, these undertakings don’t move us an inch towards the goal of clean energy, and they further endanger an already fragile ecosystem. I really hope that this generation does not have to witness its own environmental debacles in order to see that these overtures towards nuclear power and off-shore drilling are horribly short-sighted and dangerous. *Looks for the number to Greenpeace*

Marc W. Polite
Old School Environmentalist

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