Instead of a safe injection site for oil addicts, George Bush's energy plan is an arcade of mad science fantasies.
His January State Of The Union Address decrying his nation's gas-guzzling and his subsequent budget only reveal a more complex pathology: a junkie dependence on mega-tech to the exclusion of environmental redesign.
It's something to reflect on as Ontario hosts public hearings this week, possible preamble to a massive nuke expansion.
The $2.77 trillion (U.S.) budget Bush tabled February 7 reveals a potpourri of energy uppers and downers that boggle the unaddicted mind.
Bush includes in the cluster of uppers nuclear fusion, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, clean coal, fuel alcohol and nanotechnology. For downers there's carbon capture and sequestration, with a hybrid car chaser. The game, and above all the stakes, have changed.
The budget is a treasure hunt of prizes for the nuclear industry tucked away in various places. The biggie is $6.4 billion for nuclear weapon activities. But since the addiction to energy feeds on an addiction to war, a longstanding trick is to pour nuke research dollars into the Department of Energy, which gets an increase to $23.6 billion, much of it for work on nukes profiled as peaceful atoms.
People who are repelled by scientific inquiry into such areas as Darwinian evolution and stem cells have no problem being rah-rah boosters for science spending on nukes.
In the name of hard science, there's $539 million for a "next-generation" reactor that will test-run nuclear fusion, mimicking the way the sun creates pollution-free energy instead of the old-fashion nuclear fission we have today.
That's part of a commitment to an international consortium that will be finalized at this coming summer's G8 meeting if everything goes according to plan and no one holds a rock concert to protest the scheme.
There's another $392 million under the pillow at the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology for work on nuclear power and the nuclear-hydrogen connection the dirty side of where clean, non-polluting hydrogen fuel comes from.
Soon after Bush proposed next year's government spending, Condoleezza Rice praised a Washington gathering of member countries of the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, which received $52 million in the new budget.
The APP was launched by the White House in July 2005 as a counterforce to the United Nations Kyoto process. The APP groups China, India, South Korea, Australia and Japan with the United States, not understood by earlier generations of geographers as an Asian-Pacific landmass.
These six countries produce half the world's global warming gases, and all but Japan are outside the Kyoto agreement. Though no enviro groups were invited to join the Australia gathering in January, the global citizenry was represented by executives from top energy-using corporations (Alcoa and Portland Cement, for example) and top energy-producing companies (Exxon Mobil and Peabody Energy, for instance.)
The full grab bag of energy treats and fuel's gold later presented in Bush's State Of The Union Address and budget got their rollout at this meeting.
Belief in the technological fix runs deep in the Americas, which were peopled by Europeans during the modestly named "Enlightenment." The only mainstream American to challenge this deep article of faith was president Dwight Eisenhower, who used his farewell address of 1960 to warn equally about becoming captive to the "military-industrial complex" and to a "scientific technological elite" the latter phrase receiving much more attention than the former.
But the simple problem with technology fixing an energy need is that technology needs energy. The simple problem of finding a substitute for oil to run technology is that nothing beats the package deal of oil: cheap and easy to get hold of, easy to use, highly portable and multi-functional.
That's why technology can never be more than a gateway drug to oil addiction, and why the only way to break oil addiction is through social and environmental redesign.
Technology is about using hybrids to reduce fuel use by a fifth (assuming the only energy used by a car is its own fuel, not the car itself or the roadway and parking lot). Redesign is about asking office and professional employees to work at home one day a week.
Technology is about capturing the carbon in coal burned to produce electricity, and burying the smoke in caverns below the ocean floor from which oil has been pumped.
Redesign is what New Jersey's utility does: it pays customers 2.4 cents a kilowatt hour to reduce their energy use. Technology is about using nanotech to create new packages to keep California salad greens fresh in Toronto; redesign is about growing food locally.
This is the real post-addiction strategy.