President-Vice-President Dick Cheney put his foot down yesterday, telling an assembly of reporters that environmentalists have gone too far. As chair of the White House energy task force, he says that the current energy crisis demands that we burn more fossil fuels instead of trying to conserve them. Conservation, he suggests, is an outdated, 1970s-era idea. To replace energy conservation, Cheney promotes burning more coal. Apparently Cheney believes that burning coal is just the kind of new idea we need in this new century.
Is conservation a relic of the 1970s? Well, it is true that research for efficient energy technology never recovered from the blow it received when Ronald Reagan slashed its federal budget down to practically nothing in 1980. Cheney was a prominent Republican even back in those times, having served in the cabinet of Gerald Ford and again in the Cabinet of the current President's daddy, so he should have a pretty good memory of what really caused energy efficiency to die in the early 1980s.
The question is, if Cheney doesn't want the country to follow what he characterizes as the 1970s-era idea of conservation, what does he propose instead? The answer is quite obvious: Cheney and his protege George W. Bush want to go beyond the ideas of the 1970s, way back to the ideas of the 1950s. Think about the tone Cheney and Bush have set just in their first three months:
- Drill-and-burn dependence upon fossil fuels. New technology isn't needed. After all, we've got the internal combustion engine!
- Denial of the problems of air, water and ground pollution. Got problems with your heating bill this winter? Try burning coal instead!
- Eradication of dangerous animals. Seeking to suspend protection for endangered species, it's important to remember that after all, they're just varmints!
- Money does grow on trees, so let's cut them down and sell them to lumber mills! We need lots of new logging roads in our national forests and parks so that it's easier to convert all those trees into profits!
- Regulations to control the amount of arsenic in our drinking water? Sounds like some kind of pinko commie conspiracy!
- Global warming? Never heard of it.
- What's good for General Motors is good for the country! The more driving the better, so let's get those gas guzzlers out on the Interstate pronto!
- Abortion rights? Why, that's a contradiction in terms. Everyone knows that it's wrong, so let's make it against the law. Then it won't ever happen.
- We need decency on television. You know, like Ozzie and Harriet!
- What's with this weird new idea those nutty-headed scientists are trying to teach our children? Evolution? Well, what's wrong with a little Bible-study too? After all, a little bit of church-teachin' never hurt nobody, public school or not.
- Too bad that Cold War ended, it was good for the economy and made the patriotic hearts of Americans swell with pride. Well, Russia's no good anymore, but isn't there some funny country with eggrolls and stuff to the south of there? Now we just need and excuse to make a big enemy out of them. How about some spy plane incident, like the U-2?
Conservatives like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush may accuse environmentalists of being old-fashioned for holding onto ideas like conservation and clean air, but it's the Republican Party that really knows how to think behind the times. All of the ideas that Cheney and Bush bring to the White House are nothing more than 1950s rehash. They're so busy watching Leave-It-To-Beaver reruns that they've overlooked all the problems that their 1950s-era ideas brought along with them: no civil rights protection for huge portions of the population, an epidemic of women AND fetuses dying as a result of secret botched abortions, the increasing risk of nuclear annihilation, a culture of conformism lacking in innovation and the foundation for environmental disasters that would take decades to bring under control. With Bush and Cheney, all the old problems are new again. Are you ready for a return to the bad old days?
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