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Sen. Salazar’s Language About Energy All Wrong

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CO Sen. Ken Salazar held a press conference yesterday where he tried to talk up President-elect Obama’s energy plan.  Citing the need for a “comprehensive energy strategy” (sort of like his wishes for “bipartisanship”), Salazar made sure to mention the continued use of conventional fuels (fossil fuels) and “clean coal”.  To be quite frank, Obama’s and Salazar’s use of this kind of language completely undermines any message of a new eneryg policy.  They’re using words that the fossil fuel industry prefers.

As I’ll lay out in a number of upcoming posts, our greenhouse gas emissions must decrease in the very near future if we want to avoid sending our climate system into an equilibrium state that does not include ice at the poles and sea level many meters higher than it is today.  The continued use of fossil fuels does not and can not help us change our path from that future.  “Clean coal” is no more realistic than hydrogen fueled vehicles.  Both technologies are decades away from commercail viability, at the earliest.  Using the term “clean coal” allows the coal industry to continue ripping up the earth and emitting Gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, which would force the climate system for hundreds of years to come.

Salazar also brought up oil shale as a potential player in our energy portfolio.  I know Salazar is aware that multiple gallons of water and excessive amounts of fossil-fuel powered energy would be required to pump one gallon of oil from shale.  It makes no sense to burn fossil fuels in order to dig up and burn more fossil fuels.  It makes no sense to waste what little water Colorado and other Western states are likely to receive under a changed climate system to push more fossil fuel out of the ground in order to burn it and force the climate system even further from where it was.  It makes no sense for Salazar to push this untested technology while saying things like:

“The time for talk on energy is over and we need to move forward to get to energy independence,” Salazar said.

Sen. Salazar, talking about “conventional fossil fuel”, “clean coal” and oil shale is not moving us forward toward a new energy policy.  It is more of the same – it prevents a new energy policy from being formed, let alone enacted.  Using the fossil fuel industry’s talking points puts Sen. Salazar, and President-elect Obama, closer to the climate change denier/delayer camp.

An additional non-related example can be found below.

[Update]: Salazar’s use of language and spin will likely frustrate me in the next two years (as long as he keeps his Senate job and runs for reelection).  An additional example from an email he sent out:

I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss what the recent election means for our country. The election was about change. It was about coming together to solve the immense challenges this country is facing.

Change to me isn’t keeping a Senator in a Chair position when he didn’t campaign for the party he caucuses with.  Salazar is all about “coming together” and working in a “bipartisan” fashion.  I have maintained for some time that Salazar’s “bipartisanship” and the Cons’ “bipartisanship” are two very different things.  Until those definitions come into line with one another, Salazar and others are wasting everybody’s time and aren’t working in the interests of Americans.  When the Cons threaten to filibuster major Democratic proposals or nominees for positions, will Salazar do anything more than issue sternly worded letters that do nothing tangible?  If Congress doesn’t act on climate change or robust steps toward universal health care or end the occupation of Iraq, will Salazar publicly denounce the Cons’ efforts to halt the progress Americans demanded on Nov. 4th?  Or will the good-ol’ boys’ feelings in the Senate mean more to him?  I think Salazar isn’t prepared to work in the historic framework that has opened up for Dems.  In a political era in which a populist, progressive agenda is keenly sought after by Americans across all spectrums, how pro-corporatist and non-progressive will Salazar be?  How much will Salazar lead his colleagues and how much will be be led around by those who prefer the status-quo?


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