Be Honest About Alternative Energy, Or Shut Up

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Whenever I say that America needs good public transportation or solar power or anything that’s not gas-and-cars, I inevitably get pushback from conservatives where they go, “Solar power/trains/whatever just aren’t as efficient as cars and traditional power!”
The problem is, cars are efficient because we spend billions of dollars on them.  If we didn’t tax the crap out of everyone to pay for highway and road repair, and subsidize the oil companies, cars would probably be unaffordable.
Trains are unpopular because yes, they’re less convenient than the “drive anywhere you want” nature of cars – but they’re also unpopular because we decided to spend a significant portion of our collected funds subsidizing this mode of transportation over another.
The conversation, if we were being honest, is, “What do we feel like subsidizing?”
And Tobias Buckell points out the West Virginia spill, noting that it’s “a perfect demonstration of externalized costs.”  300,000 people are left without safe drinking water because a coal chemical spilled into the water – and who’s going to pay for that?  Not the coal companies.  No, the government will pick up that tab, meaning that we just decided to change Big Coal’s diapers.
Coal will continue to be cheap because we just saved them the cost of cleaning up their mess.
Which, if we were honest about things, I might not mind.  If we said, “Coal is such an awesome energy source, we think this is worth it to keep it inexpensive,” then great.  We’d at least have made an active decision.  Instead, we have dippy conservatives telling me, “No way, man, solar power is crap because Barack HUSSEIN Obama has to keep it propped up with government grants,” even as solar power gets cheaper and more viable every day… at least in other countries.
We’re going to subsidize some forms of energy.  That’s how these things work.  But don’t tell me that public transportation and new energy sources are crap because we have to pump money into them to make them work.  That car you’re driving?  You’re driving it on surfaces made possible by subsidies.  If you had to pay the costs for that on your own, you might like trains a lot better.
Stop pretending that the car and the gasoline are fundamentals of our society, and instead acknowledge they’re settings to be tweaked.  Even if you still come down on the side of cars, it’s closer to the truth.

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