In what was easily the most dispiriting passage of all three debates so far, President Obama and Governor Romney vied to demonstrate which one of them was more committed to increased production of the fossil fuels that are currently choking the life out of the planet.
Romney accused the president of having “not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal”—the equivalent, to anyone who’s been paying attention, of accusing him of not being “Mr. Drought, Mr. Emphysema, Mr. Death.” Barack Obama responded by insisting that his administration was putting more money than ever into the most ridiculous shibboleth of all, “clean coal.”
This is what we’ve come to in twenty-first-century America: a studio and a television audience that sits passively by while both candidates swear their undying fealty to the most lethal fuel source of all time. A mineral that has killed countless millions engaged in its extraction, through cave-ins and black lung, and explosions, and sheer, back-breaking toil. A fuel that even in the best of times blackened our skies and shortened our lives.
But hey, a few, dying coal counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and maybe Colorado can still swing either way, so the fate of the world can be ignored for another four years. Never mind that the industry itself is molting jobs left and right, and compensating through the practice of simply slicing off mountain tops and hurling the debris into valleys and streams. Coal must be with us forever, and also oil, and all that natural gas, fracked out from around the shale with chemicals to poison our groundwater in perpetuity.
This is the worst nightmare of our democracy, pursuing a ruinous long-term course in favor of our immediate electoral needs and short-term economic improvement. This is the moment when a leader—a real leader—must be able to point out the peril to his people, and offer a real alternative."Kevin Baker, “The Right Time”, Harper’s (me and Steph were also talking about this during the debate last night, albeit not as eloquently)