Month 5, Day 15: Saturday POTUS

The EPA released the final draft of its regulatory rule on greenhouse gases, and it’s worth checking out. This letter to President Obama uses the EPA news as a hook for the “fossils ain’t cheap” meme. Note the introduction of the “Bank of Gaia MasterCard” theme, which I will probably use again.

Oh, and by the way: you should be sure to read this piece by Al Gore.

Dear President Obama — it is excellent news that the Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its rule for regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The requirement that major polluters will have to seek permits is a good step.

The fact is, though, that it’s just a step. It’s enormously gratifying to learn that the EPA will be strengthening regulatory oversight on coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters — but the other part of the equation is that we as a nation must learn to pollute less.

As long as we rely on oil for our energy, we are at greatly enhanced risk of disasters like the Deepwater Horizon. As long as we get our electricity from coal, we’re sure to face tragedies like the mine collapse in West Virginia. Remember, also, that fossil fuels bring with them many slower disasters as well: health effects, ecosystem loss, the destruction of mountaintops, environmental degradation and the terrifying threat of catastrophic climate change.

The EPA’s regulatory action makes the most sense in the context of a broadly based strategy to get Americans to waste less energy. The virtues of conservation in the classical sense must once again to be American virtues; the credo of the old Yankee, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” needs to be part of our thinking as a nation.

Can you imagine if George W. Bush had said something like that to the nation after September 11, 2001? Alas, what we got instead was an exhortation to go shopping. The crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is an opportunity for you to make an important statement to the nation, pointing out the folly of embracing wastefulness as a lifestyle. We cannot afford the illusory cheapness of fossil fuels and the culture of disposability they have enabled; our Bank of Gaia MasterCard is maxed out to the tune of about four quadrillion dollars.

The EPA’s regulatory structure, in such a context, becomes part of a national, multi-level effort to teach us all — humans and corporations alike — to be better global citizens.

We need it.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

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