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Green Politicians, Real and Fake | The Nation

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Green Politicians, Real and Fake

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Red Ken Livingston, the mayor of London England, is making trouble again. What makes him so likable is the uproars he creates. Several years ago he started a doozie that is still ricocheting around the world.

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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What would he tell Obama to do?

Bank of America's Ken Lewis has done his bit to reinforce the idea that the CEOs who got us into this mess are a pack of liars.

Red Ken, so dubbed for his alleged Bolshevist propensities, began charging cars $16 a day for the privilege of driving into the financial center of the city. Now he has expanded the zone that drivers must pay to enter. The hullabaloos of protest are ear-splitting and perhaps election-losing, but Red Ken is not backing down.

Since levying prohibitive charges on cars driving into central business districts is hardly a new idea, one might have thought that in this moment of environmental awareness American cities might be doing the same. They are not, even as the Washington Post reports, "The White House estimates that in 2003 American motorists in the 85 most-clogged metropolitan areas wasted 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of gasoline--about $63 billion worth--stuck in traffic. Every year, drivers in the ten most-congested cities pay between $850 and $1,600 and use the equivalent of about eight work days on jammed highways and streets." The paper did not estimate how many millions of tons of carbon the wasted billions of gasoline put into the atmosphere.

It is quite amazing. No major politician these days would think of giving a speech without the obligatory three or four paragraphs on global warming and energy. They tell us that it is a crisis, which is a laugh since we have been telling them it's a crisis for the past twenty years.

What the politicians propose that we do about it now is simple: nothing. The leading candidates in both parties are given to talking about "benchmarks" we are to meet by 2016 or 2025 or 2050. One of those dates, they promise us, is the year we will be "energy independent," which they would have us think is the same as being at an environmentally stable level.

The crux of the politicians' answer to climate change and pollution is a gigantic crash research program. They usually invoke the Manhattan Project of World War II, the name given to the program for inventing and building the atomic bomb.

Or it's NASA. Everybody's shoulder to the wheel, as much money as the engineers want and--hi-ho!--off to the moon. Some people think that NASA or some organization like it might spring into action, inventing a fuel as plentiful as water, as cheap as dirt and as clean as a whistle. Once they develop the miracle fuel we can live exactly as we are living now, driving the biggest cars possible, but we will no longer have to worry about global warming.

What if the miracle doesn't come? Those space shuttles do not always go as planned, and then we have those national days of mourning for the dead astronauts. What if the scientists cannot come up with the miracle fuel? Do we have national days of mourning for a dying planet?

As we all know there is a lot we can do before the earth is turned into a lobster pot with us playing the part of the crustaceans. We have all been told that conservation alone would make a vast difference, and we also know it means changing the way we live.

Ask Red Ken. Or ask Al Gore, the only American of great political note who tells us what is involved. The others are afraid that if they level with us, we won't vote for them. And maybe we won't.

Gore says he is not running for President, but if he does we'll know what we're getting. With Gore it won't be, Have fun and hope for a miracle. With Gore it'll be taking the bus to work and a lot more.

There is another choice for us when the average daily temperature rises to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. We can evolve. We can evolve into those creatures known as Pompeii worms, who live in boiling hot hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Known as the earth's hottest animal, they slither around and have a high old time, never thinking once about global warming except to welcome it.

For those who do not cotton to evolving into an Alvinella, it's either time to meet your maker or find a politician who has more to offer than miracle fixes that may never materialize.

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