Attack of the energy snobs


There’s an annoying problem with an influential faction of today’s environmental activists: they’re energy snobs.

This is a problem that’s more serious and subtle than it might seem. Oftentimes, environmental concerns are legitimate and fair. As is the case with any set of strongly held beliefs, including religious ones, snobbery carries environmental activists way beyond the bounds of legitimacy and fairness.

You can tell this is happening to someone if nothing is ever good enough for them. Somehow, they always find a way to reject all the available options. And even then, if you try to get them to think outside the box, or look at the problem a different way, they insist the burden is on you to just think the way they do.

That’s the impression Americans are now getting from the people most vocally opposed to our oil-based economy.

The latest form of agitated activism is a nationwide campaign against so-called “bomb trains.” Shipping crude oil by rail, we are told, is an unacceptable risk to our well-being. The protest-industrial complex is hammering the message home with the mix of public events and behind-the-scenes scheming we’re now well used to.

If we pumped oil through an adequate system of pipelines, of course, we wouldn’t have to ship so much of it overland. Unfortunately, building out our pipeline infrastructure is also unacceptable to the activists. They’ve successfully stalled the most important part of that venture — the Keystone XL pipeline.

In fact, billionaire Democratic donor-activist Tom Steyer has taken energy snobbery to its logical endpoint, commissioning a high-profile study intended to show that Keystone is especially vulnerable to terrorism.

Snobs don’t criticize mildly. For today’s energy snobs, no method of transporting oil is good enough — because, according to them, they all threaten our very lives.

That’s an innovative way of shifting environmental PR — away from the long-term effects of climate change, and toward the anxiety facing people who think they might be blown up in the course of their everyday lives.

You can innovate your way into a corner, however, and that’s why even the most brilliant and talented snobs end up so often as failures. So we shut down the “bomb trains” and kill Keystone dead. What then? Go on a transportation strike until Google supplies us all with zero-emission driverless cars?

Like it or not, we humans have to actually live in the world until we die. That means putting up with some policies, and people, we’d rather not tolerate. Unproductive outrage isn’t a moral improvement on the hard work of muddling through.

There’s lots of work to be done on innovating our way toward more efficient and beneficent forms of cheap and plentiful energy. With that task before us, there’s little time for energy snobbery.

— From the Orange County Register

 

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