I’ve always thought this Leonard Cohen lyric seemed prophetic:
The age of lust is giving birth
And both the parents ask
The nurse to tell them fairy tales
On both sides of the glass
I thought of it a few days ago when I saw Nancy Pelosi on tv explaining what her party would do to bring gasoline prices down. Never mind the details, or whether the plan would work. What struck me was the assumption that Americans have a right to cheap gasoline. You don’t have to be a liberal or a conservative or a progressive or a libertarian or a Republican or a Democrat or any variation or combination of any of those to see that our appetite for energy is excessive, that oil can’t go on being cheap and plentiful, and that we should be trying to find a way out of our dependence on it.
But no major politician seems to have any serious interest in forcing the nation to confront this fact, because it comes down to a set of unpleasant choices. The occasional talk of reducing our dependency is only lip service, because there is nothing we can do to resolve our energy dilemma that does not have a downside, and too many Americans will no longer vote for a politician who tells us there is a downside. We can use a lot less–but that would be painful. We can start building lots of nuclear reactors–but that would be dangerous. We can let gas prices go wherever the market takes them–but that will be painful and unfair to some people. We can ration gas–but that will make everybody angry. We can drill everywhere–but that would be ecologically damaging. We can require smaller cars–but people love their SUVs. I could go on and on, but the one option I couldn’t propose would be as much all-but-free energy as anyone wants, with no attached wars, danger, or ecological damage.
But we don’t want to hear that. We want to hear that somebody is going to solve the problem for us, painlessly. Tell us another fairy tale, please, Ms. Speaker, Mr. President.