Charging the Windmill

The climate “movement” held their great rally today. Their target? A pipeline that nobody outside their PR machine seriously believes will make any major difference in the expanding extraction and combustion of Alberta tar sands. Those sands are simply going to get burnt, barring serious alteration in the demand for petroleum — meaning serious movement to end the reign of corporate capitalism’s core commodity, the private automobile.

Meanwhile, it will certainly be interesting to see what these Obama fans — dig the naked use of Obie’s marketing logos and slogans here — do when Zero, perhaps in the midst of new blowback or some newsworthy danger stemming from yet another heightening of the ongoing U.S. war against Iran, slaps them away.

Obama Logo

The key demand in this movement is also very telling about its chances at success. You can see the core demand there on the protester’s very expensively and professionally-made placard: “clean energy.” As if there could be any such thing, without huge alterations in the infrastructure of the country, including, once again, a sharp move away from the reign of the private automobile. To call for “clean energy” without mentioning the level of energy use is like SNCC asking for “tasty lunches” while saying nothing about segregation. It is liberal practicality in all its evasive, stillborn glory.

FWIW, TCT favors approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, on the condition that it be accompanied by a huge and immediate expansion of funding for all the nation’s public transit agencies, including Amtrak, so that they might rise from their present state of near-bankruptcy and start seriously competing against car ownership.

That, of course, won’t happen without — ahem — a social movement pushing in that direction…

TCT‘s prediction? As pretty obviously signaled in this year’s State of the Union speech, Zerobama will approve the pipeline and link it to a call for more “clean energy” research and subsidy. The “movement” that met today will then face a severe crisis, and probably dissolve, having built their flimsy little tent on a hill of sand.

That, of course, may actually be less of a defeat than if Zero somehow decides to grant their wishes and block the pipeline. If he were to do so, what would the next steps of the movement be? To declare victory and start asking for “clean energy” research? At least a tasty lunch was an actual possibility in Greensboro, North Carolina…

9 Replies to “Charging the Windmill”

  1. Increased funding for public mass transit is just another nightmare. But don’t worry–if the gates don’t fall for a few more years, we’ll get to see that increased funding.

    Unfortunately, city and state governments across the country have already shown us what they’ll do with increased public transportation funding: they’ll prioritize cutesy “downtown revitalization” projects, where dozens of millions of dollars are spent setting up ridiculously inefficient “light rail” systems that can move small numbers of people over a painfully short distance at a greatly reduced speed.

    Funding mass transportation under the current regime is the next stage of the trap. The Tommy Chong quote about marijuana anticipates the drug side of the angle. I.e., if we legalize pot, then regulate and tax it, it will result in as corrupt and wasteful a system as we have now. Legalizing it with no strings attached is the right thing to do; attaining that legalization by compromising with big pharma is a loss, sort of like taking a long spaceflight before returning to the planet of the apes. Throwing more paycheck withholding dollars at the slavering congressional whores for Amtrak or massively-polluting, hobo-striking city buses can only make things worse.

    (captcha funny: “reinforce Thatcpi”. That’s right; it’s a coded message about bolstering the consumer price index. No joke.)

  2. Harper’s has a compelling essay by a reporter who went to the new, supermasssive Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, and states bravely that Keystone XL will be built eventually, in some form, that there will be drilling, baby, drllling, all over the hinterlands, and that the social miasma wrought by our collective fossil fuel energy needs are ramping up, hotter and worse on into the befouled horizon.
    “Huge infrastructures” don’t change from within, but only from either collapse or being subsumed under other, more deleterious superstructures.
    Not all public monies are wasted – the public transportation systems of other countries are leagues beyound our pitiful, Dollar Store level efforts, but even this is still a better record than the greenwashing corporate plunder endorsed by McKibben, grist.org, Amory Lovins, Lester Brown, TEDtalks, all the colleges and universities of the baby green “movement,” and all common dreamers and “green jobs, clean energy” grifters – and not, of course not, TCT.

  3. As usual, I tend to agree with Martin’s pessimistic/realist views of how things change. But I do contend that unprecedented and highly infrequent things have happened in human affairs, and remain a possibility. If I thought things can only gets worse, I would certainly cease doing TCT immediately, and probably figure out how to set myself up for a slow-burning cocaine-centered life, or somesuch.

    Meanwhile, as to transit funding, I am rather more optimistic than Arkie. IMHO, the conflict between light rails, etc. and basic busing is a major part of the under-funding crisis in which the systems have always lived, and which are now worsened by the deepening of austerity regimes. And the kind of funding I mention as what TCT advocates is the kind that would wipe away that either-or conundrum. A rational plan would be to take the traditional 80/20 split between car-roads and transit, and immediately make it 50/50, then shift it in favor of transit by 5 more percent every year, until it reached 10/90. And that would be only the operating budget aspect. All, of course, utterly unimaginable, so long as Don Quixote-McKibben is out there talking about the windmills, rather than the actual menaces.

    BTW, the public is way ahead of both the politicians and the “activists” on this issue. This, quite literally, without an iota of leadership…

  4. As always, MD, well-said, quite interesting to me – comments sections are a better way, than many other, for us (or just me?) to test out some lines of thinking.
    I don’t see all becoming pessimism, just the entirety of social reality – we still have our wonderful lives, our unearned compensations, for now, for tomorrow. Chris Floyd, a major voice along with TCT, has penned a column in Counterpunch in which he cops to having been too credulous with the “progressive hope” vision and now being summarily sick of it all, but I’m not trying to get everyone downcast and shitty-minded, suicidal or cocaine-blasting.
    However, if there is to be a way through this, we need lots of appreciation for our predicament, and great, intense writers as is found in TCT and the remaining comments section of the bloated, dying blogoshpere.

  5. Heehee. Arka the Cynic says, from a couple anecdotal experiences, that local politicians do what they can to immediately spend down public transit funds so that they never attain a level sufficient to accomplish anything.

    Example: voters in a metro area beg for thirty years to have a mass transit system. Finally, $17 million is appropriated.

    From your Pepsico post, we know that investing in future returns is what would save the holdings. We also know that our evil overlords understand this principle. But our local politicians immediately splurge, blowing nearly the entire $17 million on a new system that serves a tiny slice of the metro area.

    The papers all cheer it as a sign of green progress. However, the system carries about 100 people at a time maximum, travels at around 36 MPH, slows traffic because it was designed to use and block surface streets, and soon annoys everyone in town–even the people who were most behind it at the beginning return to their Priuses.

    Not only did they just “waste” $17 million, they also proved that investing in mass transit is a failure. As long as the politicians are, as you put it, Don Quixote, it will be more damaging to the idea of efficient transportation to allow them to pretend to address the issue. Doing so only provides long paper trails proving that mass transit projects are unsustainable.

    That same principle holds in the realm of home energy use. Politicians deliberately push inefficient single-house solar installations and tax credits, rather than massive government solar plants, because they know ahead of time that the math doesn’t work out, that it shifts the costs onto those least able to afford them, and that the pretension of positive change will do more to forestall real change than inaction alone ever could.

  6. Arka is right – the transit projects are usually tiny projects that are created not to meaningfully contribute to the transportation problem, but simply to increase traffic to the properties of certain local landlords – this summarizes one of the revitalization projects in my city. A laughably short light rail system will be built, just long enough to bus tourists to restaurants from downtown, and inflated rent paying yuppies back downtown.

    And then there is also the issue of suburban homeowners (hate those fuckers): currently the bus system in the city proposes a major “park and ride” project (i.e. you park for free at a large parking lot and then ride the bus downtown), which is of course opposed furiously by the local soccer moms who can already see the hordes of homeless taking the bus from downtown and converging to rape their gilded daughters.

    And this is how I learned to stop worrying and love the impending cataclysms. I’ve lived through the collapse of my country back in the 1990s, I can live through another collapse. It will be fun to see the emotional meltdown of the heretofore comfortable US population who may have to deal with pretty uncomfortable realities soon. If that happens, my singular focus will be to make it back across the ocean (or die trying.)

  7. “which is of course opposed furiously by the local soccer moms who can already see the hordes of homeless taking the bus from downtown and converging to rape their gilded daughters”

    Marla, I hereby request permission to use this quote in my forthcoming book! That is dead-on about the suburban-yuppie opposition to transit.

    Meanwhile, I certainly don’t advocate naivete, but what I’m talking about here is what ought to be a cardinal demand of the so-called climate movement. There’s always a gap between political demands and their implementation. But, as it stands now, the climate movement is entirely devoid of intelligent demands.

    Likewise, the demand of TCT, if youse gize will allow, is for enough public funding to permit serious transit to emerge for the first time in this troubled imperial cradle. We want completed subways, full light rail networks, and comprehensive, high-quality bus systems — now!

    Won’t even mention the bike issue.

  8. Lol, it’s all yours!
    (can’t wait for the book, it’s going to be epic for sure – no pressure ;))

    Of course nobody here is advocating naivete – it is just unfortunate that the type of naivete inherent in the current generation token ‘initiatives’ is yet another hurdle to deal with in trying to formulate a large enough to be meaningful response… It is amazing what power symbolic ‘improvements’ or ritualized protests hold as pacifiers of the public (and I’d lie if I say that I’m not occasionally susceptible myself… )

  9. Thanks, Marla, and, come collapse, I may look you up and join your exodus crew…

    Meanwhile, I’m quite interested in the devolution of organizing in our supposedly decentralized age of resistance. Check out the beaming visages of the 2/15/13 celeb arrestees versus the scenes from, say, May 20, 1961.

    Shows you the extent to which “getting arrested” has been fetishized, hollowed out, and very radically dumbed down.

    And the kiddies in Occupy had their own version of monkey-see-monkey-do, as they intentionally marched into cop lines, to provoke arrest scenes. What’s your demand? “To get arrested and show how cool/angry we are!”

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