Sifting through the aftermath of the recent budget compromise, one finds cuts to high speed rail, land conservation, clean water, energy efficiency, and clean energy alternatives. According to NPR, “cuts were targeted at programs ranging from FEMA grants to first-responders and high-speed rail projects to assistance for low-income mothers and children and community AIDS initiatives.” In addition, AmeriCorp (a program in which I served â€“ and met my wife), “Funds for community health centers and HIV/AIDs and TB prevention were cut by about $2 billion.” Furthermore, “Cuts for the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy and research money for the National Science Foundation came out to about another billion dollars in cuts from Obama’s FY2011 request. Money to promote clean drinking water and land and water conservation would also be cut drastically under the new spending measure, according to the House figures.”
What does this say about our priorities in this country? With further budget cuts looming for the fiscal year 2012, what does this country stand for in 2011?
Yes, clean energy is expensive. Clean water has become increasingly expensive because of a lack of regulation and regard for it prior to the Clean Water Act in 1972. While high speed rail may be a boondoggle, the bigger issue is what are we doing with the transportation infrastructure moving forward? Oil is not a sustainable, long term option. True, the switch cannot take place over night. The bigger concern is what are we doing to move away from oil? Electric vehicles? This is a promising technology, but are we just trading one train wreck for another? Take a look at the materials needed to build the batteries. Unless a company like BYD motors, which claims to have built a non-toxic battery with fluid that could be ingested, is able to mass produce a battery that uses renewable materials, what choices will we have? Won’t we face many of the same issues in a generation or two?
While it is not the government’s responsibility to fund research and design, they can and arguably should set the standard for a sustainable economy. There has been little discussion about a regenerative economy. It’s time to move past the partisan bickering that envelops Washington (and the rest of the country) and realize that if we don’t make a stand for a clean energy future that supports American jobs and cities, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when peak oil and pollution controls make these sources too expensive.