Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Object!

A recent post by my fellow classmate, the author of Government Watcher, presents the question of whether or not we should fight global climate change. A topic that over the past decade has seen storms of media coverage and has been the topic of controversial political statements, climate change has earned its place as an important public issue along with gay rights, healthcare laws, and foreign wars.

A majority of the public agree that protecting the environment, particularly in preventing man-made air, water, and earth pollution, is important. This aspect of the climate change and environmental protection issue has become a non-issue, especially after looking at the damage caused by China's lack of environmental protection. However, much of the division in this issue comes when we ask, "How should we protect the environment?"

Although this question is not directly addressed in my colleague's post, he mentions several small ways in which the environment can be protected including buying local organic products, reusing things, and reducing energy use.

While all of these ways are feasible and practical on the personal level, we must be aware that in spite of our personal measures, the government is putting in place policies and encouraging businesses and products that are damaging the environment in the name of protecting it.

A prime example of a policy that is lauded for its "environmental benefits," but instead does just the opposite, are the subsidies and regulations for ethanol, a corn or sugar-cane based fuel. Promoted as a "clean fuel," ethanol, when it is burned, releases even more harmful toxins and pollutants than regular gasoline. In fact, E10 (a mix of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline which is now mandated by our government) "increases emissions of total hydrocarbons, nonmethane organic compounds, and air toxics compared to conventional gasoline."* Not only does the fuel the government requires you to use every day release more air pollutants, but in the long term it almost doubles greenhouse gas emissions. As a scientific study says, "We found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years."**

Electric Cars
Another example is the new fad of electric cars that the government promotes as "green." These are merely wolves in sheeps' clothing. Distracted by the "clean" covering of electric  energy, consumers forget that electricity is made by burning coal, which is just as, if not more, polluting than gasoline. We are, in fact, wasting energy by taking energy sources through so many steps before they are used in our cars. When coal is burned to create electricity, energy is lost; when a car battery is charged, energy is lost in transition.

The point here is this: while protecting the environment is important, we must not allow it to blind us toward "solutions" that will in the long run create more damage than they will do good. In addition to taking the small daily steps that my classmate mentions in his post, we must realize that a exponential amount of difference can be made by educating ourselves on environmental and climate change policies as well as speaking out on policies and products that our government supports that actually backtrack in our efforts to protect our environment.


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