Bush's Fight Club Mentality

by Anil Antony | 5/21/01 5:00am

President George W. Bush's energy policy amounts to what I like to refer to as the Fight Club mentality. Don't understand what I mean? Consider the following. In the movie, Fight Club, Edward Norton's character, the nameless Narrator, crouches over Angel Face's (Jared Leto) prostrate body and gives him the whipping of a lifetime, brutalizing him and disfiguring his face beyond recognition. As we see this, the Narrator explains, "I wanted to destroy something beautiful."

Skip forward to March of 2000. George W. Bush has unveiled his plan to dig in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Needless to say, this endeavor faces significant public opposition. After all, the ANWR is one of the only pristine, natural areas left in the United States, and also happens to be home to a number of threatened species -- bear, wolf and caribou, to name a few -- and a very fragile tundra ecosystem. Most experts agree that the oil potential of the ANWR won't have any long-term effect on our current oil shortage.

In defense of this new plan Bush states, "It would be helpful if we opened up ANWR. I think it's a mistake not to. And I would urge you all to travel up there and take a look at it, and you can make the determination as to how beautiful that country is." Are you beginning to understand my argument? Bush doesn't think that this land is "beautiful;" many, however, disagree with him. Just imagine how beautiful it will be with towering oil-rigs impaling the ground and crushing the delicate tundra.

Even Paul Krugman, considered by some to be the world's premier economist, who is no great friend of the environment, agrees that additional drilling isn't needed. He states quite unequivocally that this is the wrong way to approach the situation. "First things first: This year's gasoline price spike has nothing to do with a shortage of crude oil. Even if we had already punched the Alaskan tundra and the ocean floor off Florida full of holes, we'd still be in the same fix."

The famines in Somalia and Ethiopia are analogous situations. The reason there is famine is not because there is tremendous food scarcity. There is some shortage, but there's still enough food to feed all. Corruption and mismanagement of food resources at the highest levels of government are the culprits, much like mismanagement and oil-ties are responsible for our current problems.

Bush also tries to justify drilling in the Arctic by arguing that it's necessary to decrease United States oil dependency upon foreign nations. Here's a brilliant idea: why don't we just invest in renewable energy technology, so that we cut our oil ties altogether. After all, as long as our economy is dependent on oil, we will always be at risk for price shocks and supply manipulation. No one can influence us if we transition to a renewable based economy. But, apparently, such ideas are not to be

More recently, Bush cut the renewable energy R&D budget by 37 percent, virtually shutting the door on the prospect of renewable energy. Now he has produced a "comprehensive energy policy" that stresses the need for efficiency and fuel conservation, while ignoring renewable energy technology. The entire world (trust me, this isn't hyperbole), with the exception of a few oil-rich Republicans, agree that we need a large increase in renewable energy R&D to combat what most recognize as a disaster looming on the horizon. No, it's not fuel shortage: it's global warming and the risk of environmental devastation.

Bush's latest policy suggestion epitomizes the Fight Club mentality. He sneers in the face of scientists and the rest of the world as he continues to deny renewable energy a viable future, all the while maintaining subsidies for fossil fuel exploration. Many European nations are well on their way to establishing the infrastructure for a renewable energy future. Why is it that we lag so far behind?

And now, to rub salt in our wounds, Bush proposes tying future funding for renewable energy technology to royalties earned from drilling in the ANWR, i.e. the only way to receive additional funding for renewable energy is to drill in the Arctic. It puts those who are concerned about the environment in quite a predicament, because to oppose one or the other would be construed as "anti-environment." In short, to earn funding for renewable energy we must commit to the destruction of that which is beautiful.