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Friday, November 12, 2010

Stenholm Lobbies Locals to Stick Heads in (Oil) Sand

As discussed previously, lobbyist and former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm addressed the Madison Rotary Club Monday to preach the need to stay addicted to fossil fuels. As recorded by KJAM's Lauri Struve, Stenholm was refreshingly straightforward with his propaganda. He opened by saying he was in Madison and hitting the Rotary circuit nationwide "on behalf of Big Oil," the American Petroleum Institute. He made clear that he's a lobbyist, though he said rather tongue-in-cheek that in front of the press and his wife he prefers the term "educator." (Fellow educators, you should be offended by this co-opting of your professional title by a salesman for a special interest.)

Stenholm's main line of attack is that the oil industry supports developing all forms of energy but that resources like nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and biofuels are all not alternative but supplemental energy. "There is not going to be an alternative to fossil fuels in the next 30 years," says Stenholm. "No matter how much you hear people say we have to get away from oil and gas, gotta get away from dirty coal, for the good of the country, that would be the worst thing that could happen."

Worst thing that could happen to the Exxon-Mobil corporate execs and stockholders paying Stenholm to "educate" us, yes. But moving away from fossil fuels is the best thing that could happen for, well, pretty much everyone else.

Stenholm doesn't mention that our impression that we can't afford to dump fossil fuels is skewed by $312 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year that keep oil, coal, and gas prices artificially low. Such subsidies, says the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2010, "encourage wasteful consumption and undermine the competitiveness of renewable and more energy-efficient technologies." Cutting those subsidies would cut fossil-fuel use, reduce pollution, extend the lifetime of those reserves, and make wind, solar, and biofuels more fiscally competitive alternatives.

Stenholm's "can't do without" argument also seems to ignore the long-term fact that oil will run out and that we will have to transition to alternatives. We can make that transition two ways: we can start changing now and transition smoothly, or we can stick our heads in the oil sands and transition hard when the wells run dry. Stenholm's paid cheerleader act only facilitates the ostrich mindset that wants to believe everything is fine and that we don't have to make hard choices and sacrifices now to ensure our grandkids have more energy options available.

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