Easy as Two Plus Two

How to Regain our Democracy

By George Harvey

As a former conservative Republican (in fact, a former NRA life member), I believe I am as disappointed as any Democrat by what I am seeing in Washington today. The White House and Congress are not guided by any conservative thinking or traditional belief system. It is not the good of the economy or the safety of the people that guides them. It is not about America being first; they are giving away our leading place in the world to China and have an as-yet-unexplained relationship with Russia.

Perhaps the one beneficial result of the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court is that we can all see pretty much precisely who benefited from the election. And based on this, two things are obvious. One is whose interests the current government actually represents. The other is where their weakness lies.If they were guided by what is good for businesses in general, they would not be threatening the fastest growing businesses in the country. If they were guided by free market thinking, they would allow the industries that peddle obsolete technologies to die a quick death, instead of working to save them from progress.

It is clear that the majority was purchased by elements of the fossil fuels industry and related businesses. It is worth speculating about why they chose to put up such a huge effort for this election, instead of earlier ones.

We could guess that they did not steal the election in 2008, because they were strong enough that they felt no need to do so. But since that time their position has deteriorated to the point that it is no longer tenable. They purchased the 2016 election, at a fairly high cost, because they felt they had to. They are in business for the next quarter, and they want the next quarter to be profitable, every quarter until they retire. After that, a drought worthy of the Pharaoh or a flood like Noah’s can come, for all they care. They can get a mansion on high ground with deep wells and an off-grid solar system. But in the meantime, they want to do business, and the cost of a congress is small compared to their profits.

The reason why they felt a need to buy a government is clear, when you look at what they are up against. Their market is contracting because of efficiency. They are competing with each other. They are losing market share to renewable power sources that are increasingly competitive; the wind and sun are now our least expensive power sources. The fossil fuels businesses are losing customers who decide to generate their own power. They have to maintain infrastructure that “distributed” power sources such as wind and solar do not need. They are increasingly facing resistance from governments concerned about pollution and climate change; the United Nations is taking the position that fossil fuels must be put out of business over the next thirty years or so, which will reduce their revenues by hundreds of billions of dollars every year, and the simultaneous loss in stranded assets is calculated to be up to $100 trillion.

Right now, even with all the fracking, the oil and gas industry is in a depression. Coal is nearly dead. There is no recovery in sight, unless some government steps in and supports them at the expense of the taxpayers they govern.

They may be acting like confirmed autocrats, in total control, but the problems that prompted them to try to take over control of our democracy are also their weakness. We can take our democracy back. We can do it rather painlessly. We can save a considerable amount of money as we do it. We can even see our health improve in the process.

Would you give two degrees and
two miles for America’s freedom?

Let’s start with saving money. A general rule is that a people who use fossil fuels for heat reduce their consumption about 3% for every 1° F they turn their thermostat down. By turning the thermostat down 2° F, we can reduce our consumption of oil or natural gas for heating by about 6%.

The United States uses about four billion gallons of oil and about 4.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year for residential heat. Turning down the thermostat 2° F would save about 240 million gallons of oil, valued at $600 million, and 282 billion cubic feet of gas, valued at $2.82 billion. Turning down our thermostats by 2° F would save us about $3.42 billion each year at the household level. A penny saved is a tax-free penny earned.

On average, we drive 13,496 miles per year. Together, we consume roughly 138 billion gallons of gasoline in the process. If we reduced our driving by only two miles per day, it would cut 730 miles out of our driving, reducing our consumption by about 5.4%. That would save us from using about 7.45 billion gallons of gasoline. At $2.28 per gallon, that would save us $16.98 billion.

If all of us turned down our heat by just 2° F and reduced our driving by two miles per day, we would save about $20.4 billion per year, just in the cost of fuel. It would also cut about $10 billion from our medical expenses.

But making reductions like these would also make a powerful point. Something over half of all Americans disapprove of Donald Trump. If those people made reductions of 2°F and 2 miles, they would save over $10 billion. But their gain is the fossil fuels industry’s loss. It is an industry already in depression, and if we respond to its grab for power by cutting its sales, it will hurt more than it can bear. And the fossil fuels industry’s loss cut into its support of the Autocratic Party in the White House and Congress.

We can get our democracy back. And we can start by doing what is good for us anyway. We cut 2° F and two miles, and we tell the fossil fuels industry that they have to give us the congress and White House back. We push, and we keep pushing, cutting fossil fuel use as fast as we can, until they yell, “Uncle Sam!”

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