Dystopia 22: Gerry Revisited

Invictus (Unconquered)

Out of the night  that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my  unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of  circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under  the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond  this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the  shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and  shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait  the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I  am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

A favorite poem of Nelson Mandela

Dystopia 22:   Gerry Revisted

Jack lay in the fetal position, rocking to his own rhythm.  He was trying to coax himself to sleep.  Blessed sleep.  The only state where unrelenting pain could not reach him. No part of him felt whole.  The smile that had charmed so many women, including Laissi, was now broken and ragged; when his cracked and swollen lips parted enough to show it.  One of his eyes no longer admitted any light.  He was afraid of how that eye looked.  Was it a sick, milky color now?  Jack had no way to know.

His hands were the worse.  Where the nails had been, there were only scabs.  His right arm terminated in an uneven swollen mass of broken fingers.  They spared his left hand so he could still feed himself.  His back was a mass of burned and infected flesh.  The backs of his legs were purple and swollen as were the soles of his feet.  And then there were the other wounds.  Best to not think about those.

That was not the worst of it though.  If it had just been for the wounds he could go back.  They could still come and rescue him.  He could heal.  He could retrain the left hand to do what the right had.  Paje could salve his back and his scars would match Laissi’s.  But Paje could not salve all of his wounds.  And so Jack lay there, whimpering in the fetal position and trying to escape into sleep.

That dripping sound.  This new constant drip, drip.  How could a man sleep with that going on?  He closed his eyes tighter against the sound and his whimper increased to a groan.  If they had invented something new to torment him, he did not want to know and he surely did not want to see.

No, even if they came for him he could not go back.  He could not undo what he had become.

Drip, drip, drip…

He could not stand that noise.  He opened his eyes to the glaring light that never ceased in his cell.  He sighed to himself and with some effort lifted his head slightly toward the noise.  Another man’s boot came into focus.

Hurriedly Jack rolled to his stomach and, cradled his right hand in his left, lifted his torso from the floor to one elbow.  Panting with the effort he focused on the new occupant of the room.  The man sat with his body braced against the far wall.  He was soaking wet but still had his clothes on.  This confused Jack because clothes were one of the first things to go, and water was one of the more recent things that had been done to him.  This man seemed completely out of order to Jack.

“How did you get here?”  Jack’s voice crackled.

“Well that’s not really important, is it Jack?”

The voice was so familiar.  But that was impossible.  There was no way it could be…


“Aye, Jack.  Seems you’re in a bit of pickle ma’ boy.  Christ, I leave ya for a minute and look what ya do.”

Jack struggled to lift himself to a sitting position so he could look Gerry in the face.  Indeed it was his old companion from Fort Cheney.  He looked exactly the way he had on their last day together.  The dripping sound was from the puddle forming around the old man’s wet clothes.

“Why are ya so wet?”

“Ocean’s a wet place, and you and I got to swim for it if we want to get to Canada.”

“Canada?!  We’re miles from Canada, Gerry.”  Canada.  That was far away in Jack’s mind.  Not only in space but in time.  It had been ages since he had even thought of Canada.

“Nah.  I’ve come to take you to Canada, m’ boy.  But if ya want to go with me, ya got to swim for it Jackee m’ boy.”  Gerry grinned his toothless, old codger grin.

“I’m sorry Gerry.  I’d love to go with ya but I can’t.  There’s this woman.  I’m going to be a father, Gerry.  I can’t leave now.”

Gerry nodded at Jack and said, “Well Jack.  You know the truth of that don’t ya, m’ boy?  Ya can’t go back to them.  But ya can go with me to Canada.  Ya just have to swim for it m’boy.”

If Callum was to march into his cell right now Jack would kiss his feet and follow him out.  He would go with Callum or anyone, anywhere away from here.  Hell, Jack would follow him to the moon.  But he had faced the truth of it long ago. Callum was not coming.  Maybe he thought of himself as a Jaguar, but they had not come for him, like they had come for Laissi.  Maybe he was not a Jaguar to them.  Maybe they were only part of the long list of those who had used Jack for their own devices.  It was only for Laissi and the baby that he still kept silent.  Had she had the baby yet?  Who could say?

It did not matter that they were not coming.  Not now.   That was for the best really.  Because it would not be Jack that followed Callum out of the cell.  Jack was dead.  The man Jack had been was gone.  The fort had truly stolen him away.  He would never be the man he was supposed to be.  Not the man, father, lover he would have been.   His hand may very well heal and Laissi would get used to his broken smile but his broken soul would never heal.  He would always cower at sharp noises or a raised hand.  He would never be able to look another human in the eye.  Not even Laissi.  He would always look away, look down like dog.

“What are you talking about.  There’s no water here, Gerry.  Not enough to swim in, even if I knew how.”

“Oh that’s why I came, Jack.  To help ya to swim for it.  To help ya get to Canada.  To the open water.”

“I can’t leave Gerry.  I can’t leave Laissi.”

“Laissi.  Is that your woman’s name?  I like it. Has a nice ring to it.  Can’t wait to meet her.  But she has her own swimming to do.  I’m just here to teach you to swim.”

“Old man, you’re as crazy as ya always were.” Jack said shaking his head.  He didn’t have the strength to sit up any more.  He slid back down to the floor.

“Thaaats right.  You sleep now Jack m’boy.  Get up your strength.  It’ll take all your strength to swim with me, Jack.”

Jack awoke the way he always did.  The door to his cell was flung open and two men marched quickly in.  They grabbed him by each shoulder to drag him from his cell.  Invariably  they bumped and shook his right hand.  With no shame left, Jack screamed in response.  His legs and feet were so badly treated that he could no longer walk, even if he had wanted to propel himself to further torment.  He let them drag him.

The whole thing happened so fast that Jack nearly forgot his strange conversation before he had slept.  He strained his protesting muscle to look over his shoulder to the corner where Gerry had been, but his friend was gone.  Just as he thought.  A disjointed hallucination from his tortured mind.  There was no going back.

He turned his eyes forward again and gasp in breath.  There stood Gerry in the hall.

“Told ya I was here for you, m’ boy.  Time to learn to swim, Jack.”

Jack could think of nothing to answer Gerry and only watched as Gerry turned to walk slightly in front of the guards as they dragged Jack down the hall to the torment that had become his life.  Gerry’s boots made a squishing sound and left small puddles on the floor with each foot fall, but the guards took no notice.

“I know ya got one last fight in ya boy.  Ya been thinking there’s nothing left.  Ya been thinking your going to crack and tell ’em all ya know despite that lassy ya got back there, but I know you got one last bit o’ fight left in ya.”  Gerry continued undaunted by Jack’s silence.  “Just that one last bit o’ defiance and then you can come to Canada with me, m’ boy.”

Jack had no idea what Gerry was talking about.  What defiance did he have left to show?  And even if he did, did Gerry think he was suddenly going to get up and walk out of here?  Walk all the way to the ocean?  Not to mention swim a million miles to Canada?  Gerry was even crazier than Jack.  Far crazier than when he had known him at Fort Cheney.

They brought him to the room Jack knew so well.  The room of questions and pain.  They tied his arms out at right angles to his body on two wooden planks that formed a cross and then tilted his head down.  Jack knew form this preparation what today’s flavor of pain would be.

Mr. Teeth entered the room.

“Good evening DJ.”

“Damn, got it wrong again.  I thought it was morning.”

Mr. Teeth chuckled, “Well you’re in a fine spirit today DJ.  What do you say we dispense with this today?”

“Great idea.”  Jack stated with resignation.

“Ya got it in you to give him one more fight m’ boy.  Don’t give away your woman now.”  Gerry had taken up a position by Jack’s outstretched left hand.

“Then tell us where the rebels are, DJ.”

“They’re in Canada.”  Jack said for lack of a better idea.

“Pity.  It was such a nice day.”  He stepped back and nodded and one of the goons who had dragged Jack down here stepped forward.  He thrust a flat stick into Jack’s mouth.  Jack no longer had the teeth to fight against such an intrusion.  Then the thug turned the stick on its edge propping Jack’s mouth open 2 inches.  He stuffed Jack’s mouth with a wet rag and Jack immediately started to gag.  The stick was removed and Gerry was right next to his head.  He was crouched down by Jack’s one good eye.  Jack’s eyes were wide with terror but Gerry spoke soothingly to Jack.

“This is it my boy.  Now ya swim.  Ya take a deep breath and swim for Canada.”

Jack’s eyes widened in horror at what this mad man and former friend was suggesting.  He began to shake his head furiously.

“Now Jack, I know what you’re thinking.  Do ya deny that if I had given ya a gun or a knife  in the cell you would have hesitated to use it?”

The men strapped his head to the plank.  Jack’s breath came in panicked gulps as Gerry kept talking to him calmly.

“Ya know ya can’t go back to the Jaguars, son.  Best ya come with me.  It won’t matter what they done ta ya in Canada.”

The men placed a wet gauze material over Jack’s face and his sight of Gerry was lost but Gerry kept reasoning with Jack.

“Ya think it will hurt too much and you’re right.  But its just like the tooth Jack.  The sooner you’re rid of it the sooner ya can have peace.  I’m here for ya, Jack.  Ta help ya be rid of the pain.”

Jack’s breaths were still in panicked but he had to admit he saw the sense of it.  They weren’t coming for him.  Laissi had been one of their own.  Maybe they had even come for Tendo.  He had not seen her since the screams from the other room.  But they were not coming for him and that was just as well.  His mind was gone and he would never be the man he had been. He was in a sense already dead.

The cold water began to pour on his face and Jack began to cough and sputter.

“Now Jack!  Ya learn to swim now!  Swim for it and I’ll meet ya in Canada.!”

Jack steeled himself for the pain and fought against the urge to cough the water out and suck what air he could get in.  He forced his lungs to drag against their will the water that was being poured on him.

Immediately, his lung overrode his order and rejected the fluid.  They sought clean dry air but found none.  The room did indeed swim and become echoey.

“You scum.  You’re supposed to get him to talk.  Not kill him.  Get him up!  Get hm up!”

Jack was vaguely aware of movement as his lungs and throat screamed at his own foolishness.  They cried out for air and now he was aligned to their demand.  Air.  He needed air.

The gauze and the gag were removed from his mouth but the water was not in his mouth or his wind pipe, it was in his lungs.  He tried to cough it up but he didn’t have the strength.  He didn’t have enough air in his lungs to force the water out of the way so he could get to the air he needed.  Panic flooded his brain as he gasped and choked.

“That’s it boy.  Your almost there.  We’re almost to Canada m’ boy.”

They were holding him up and slapping his back.  Mr. Teeth was screaming that they would pay for letting DJ drown but Teeth was further and further away down a corridor and it was harder and harder to hear him.  Gerry was clear as a bell.

“Ya made it my boy!  Ya sure showed them, didn’t ya?  Ya see the shoreline m’ boy? Just swim the last of it…You’re there…Right there!”

The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

1.  My  Karma Just Ran over your Dogma

The fossil-fuel-based energy path  that the industrial nations have trod for so long isn’t the boon that  its advocates–especially in the United States–currently claim. Even in  purely financial terms, its cost to the economy outweighs its benefit  when a full accounting is performed. Worse yet, in light of what we now  know, the disease and death it causes can–without exaggeration–be  called criminal.–Albert Huebner Bnet

If you make this transition to  renewables and electricity, then you eliminate the need for 13,000 new  or existing coal plants,  Just by changing our infrastructure we have  less power demand.–Mark Jacobson

So here we are; with oil spewing into the Gulf and the  right wing leadership wanting to “double down” on oil exploration and  drilling.  We are burning 5 million years worth of ancient sunlight a  year and still this is not enough.  We all know the dogma.  We are  dominated by oil because it is the only energy source that can run our  society as efficiently and cheaply as such a complex society requires.

But what  if I told you that the dogma was wrong?  Not only are there other  sources of energy upon which to base our society, but there are sources  that are MORE EFFICIENT and CHEAPER!

The dogma tells us that  making energy out of renewable sources is just too inefficient.  But  only one side of this equation is considered.  While generating  electricity from renewable sources is frequently less efficient than  burning oil, running things on electricity to do work is vastly more  efficient than running combustion engines.  For example:

A good example is with vehicles. Only 17-20%  of the gasoline put in a tank results in moving a car; the rest of the  energy in the gasoline is lost as waste heat (that directly heats the  air and contributes to warming). Of the electricity plugged into a pure  electric vehicle, 76-85% goes to moving the car and the rest is lost as  waste heat. As such, converting to vehicles results in a vehicle  efficiency improvement alone of a factor of 4-5.–Energy Boom

In  fact if we converted our society to renewable electricity we would only  need 2/3 of the energy we now use to live exactly as we already do!

They  tell us that wind and solar are too intermittent.  The sun is not  always shining and the wind does not always blow.  Again, wrong,  although this one is sort of counter intuitive:

The intermittency of solar and wind – also  viewed as a reliability factor – is seen as less of an obstacle. As the  report notes, both have less than two percent downtime (five percent for  wind at sea), while the average U.S. coal plant is offline for  servicing fully 12.5 percent of the time. Additionally, because wind  commonly blows when sunshine is infrequent, and calm days produce solar  energy when wind is absent, the mix is more or less stable on its own,  without human intervention.–Energy Boom

2.   Victims of the Resource Wars

“The  military’s primary objective is to ensure adequate oil supplies for the  national defense….” —EAW

But I said they were wrong about efficiency and  cost of oil.  And they are.  When you see the cost of oil per barrel,  what is hidden is the price that is paid before the oil comes to market.   The current system is set up to hide the cost of oil so that those in  power can stay in power, not so we can have cheap energy.  What makes  oil desirable is that it can be controlled by the few, transported  easily, and therefore it can make those who control it obscenely rich.

So high is  this cost that in 1999, when the price of gas was still just a little  over $1 a gallon, estimates for the true economic cost of gas at that  time was $15.14.-CTA, Bnet  I think that was probably an  underestimation then.  Imagine what it must cost now!  Would you fill  your tank if it cost $20?  $45? You are paying it, you just don’t realize it.

How do we get such  an inflated price.  First we pay huge tax subsidies to the oil  companies.   Companies that have made record profits over the last few  years, apparently need tax payer money so they can explore for oil and  drill new wells.  In 1996:

Federal tax breaks that directly benefit oil  companies include: the Percentage Depletion Allowance (a subsidy of  $784 million to $1 billion per year), the Nonconventional Fuel  Production Credit ($769 to $900 million), immediate expensing of  exploration and development costs ($200 to $255 million), the Enhanced  Oil Recovery Credit ($26.3 to 100 million), foreign tax credits ($1.11  to $3.4 billion), foreign income deferrals ($183 to $318 million), and  accelerated depreciation allowances ($1.0 to $4.5 billion).–CTA

They are also  allowed to “rent” national lands for next to nothing while they extract  the oil for their own profit.

The breaks don’t  stop there.  At the state level gasoline taxes are frequently less than  state sales tax, giving the oil companies another hidden tax break.   Then there are government programs related to the oil industry.  Things  like infrastructure and other necessities of our car culture:

Other program subsidies include funding of  research and development ($200 to $220 million), export financing  subsidies ($308.5 to $311.9 million), support from the Army Corps of  Engineers ($253.2 to $270 million), the Department of Interior’s Oil  Resources Management Programs ($97 to $227 million), and government  expenditures on regulatory oversight, pollution cleanup, and liability  costs ($1.1 to $1.6 billion).

The Strategic Petroleum  Reserve, a federal government entity designed to supplement regular oil  supplies in the event of disruptions due to military conflict or natural  disaster, costs taxpayers an additional $5.7 billion per  year–CTA

The high seas must be patrolled to protect oil  tankers delivering the oil.  We must invade and colonize oil rich  nations.  We capture real estate for oil pipelines to Europe.  We need  to maintain a presence in the unstable Middle East.  This means building  military bases and maintaining them.  In so doing we fail to “win the  hearts and minds” of the people there, and you can add the cost of  terrorism to the oil bill.  

We are  literally burning extraordinary amounts of oil, just to defend more  oil.  Seventy nine percent of the energy needed to run the Pentagon and  all its operations comes from oil. Our military is the leading consumer  of Earth’s oil.  A non-nuclear aircraft carrier burns 134 barrels  of gas an hour  and at top speed consumes 150,000 gallons of fuel a  day.  A battleship burns 68 barrels an hour.  An M-1 Abrams tank  consumes 252 gallons per hour in the heat of battle and it takes 500,000  gallons a day to supply an armored division of 348 tanks.

Worse are the  flying machines.  A B-52 bomber uses 86 barrels an hour and the F-4  Phantom fighter consumes 40 barrels an hour.  At peak thrust an F-15   fighter can burn through 25 gallons a minute, but with the  afterburners on you can ratchet that up to 4 gallons a second or  14,400 gallons an hour.  One training session wastes more fuel in a  single hour than you use in your car in 2 years.–EAW

Oil,  itself, is subject the the whims of both politics and the market.   Rapid fluctuations in price cause our entire market to fluctuate,  costing Americans jobs and the American dollar inflation.

…occasional supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of  wealth, which, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy,  have cost us more than $7 trillion present value dollars over the last  30 years. That is more than the cumulative cost of all of the wars  fought by the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. The transfer of wealth  to oil-producing countries – $1.16 trillion over the past thirty years –  significantly increased our trade deficit. The Department of Energy  estimates that each $1 billion of trade deficit costs America 27,000  jobs. Oil imports account for almost one-third of the total U.S. deficit  and, hence, are a major contributor to unemployment.–IAGS

Then there  is the immediate damage to our environment.  With the BP rig disaster,  this has been at the top of the news cycle for a change.  Prince William Sound has never  recovered from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.  That disaster  will pale in comparison to this current one.  Loss of fishing, tourism  and wildlife.  Loss of jobs and tax base for the state.  Loss of  livelihood and way of life.  All of which is hard to measure in any  quantifiable way.  Yet only 5 cents per barrel of oil goes to the Oil  Pollution Liability and Compensation Fund (The Fund) which is kept as a  resource for assessing the oil industry, and paying for the clean up  costs of oil spills.–CRS Gov Report

The  FUND is maintained at $1 billion and is available to cover a wide range  of costs including administrative, preventative, research, response, and  mitigation It addresses an extensive list of damages, including natural  resource restoration and replacement, real or personal property losses,  loss of subsistence use, loss of revenues, loss of profits or earning  capacity, and loss of public services.CRS Gov Report

Even when the oil gets to us, the cost of burning it  is not assessed as part of the “oil is cheap” dogma.  Loss of  agricultural yields due to pollution.  Damage to buildings due to the  fumes.  Water pollution, noise pollution, the cost of parking lots,  improper disposal of batteries, tires, engine fluids, and junked cars.

Then there  is the toll oil takes in life each year.  The soldiers who defend the  oil rich areas and the transport of oil.  Those that die of pollution or  contamination or just out right murder in areas where oil extraction is  taking place.  The victims of terrorist attacks.

The rig workers and coal  miners who die every year.  The asthmatics, cardiac patients, new borns  and others who die earlier than they should because of air pollution.   Other people who die early due to mercury contamination.

Leading investigators of these fine-particle effects launched a  comprehensive study published in the March 6, 2002, issue of the Journal  of the American Medical Association. The study monitored about 500,000  adults in more than 100 cities across the United States for sixteen  years. The results of this report state: combustion-related small  particles from cars, trucks, and coal-fired power plants and factories  increase the risk of individuals dying from lung cancer, heart attack,  and respiratory failure; and the death rate increases in proportion to  the density of particles. A study published in the Daily News on March  6, 2002, focusing specifically in Los Angeles County in California,  estimates that 3,500 deaths each year relate to the inhalation of fine  particles, which also trigger over 200,000 asthma attacks annually in the county and deprive  its economy of nearly two million work days lost to sickness.–Bnet

It is estimated that 0.3 million  people die annually world-wide from societally-imposed, fossil  fuel-based electricity generation pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulphur  dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, volatile organics and heavy  metals, notably mercury) and 170,000 people die annually world-wide from  coal burning-based electricity generation.  Green Blog  [emphasis added]

Finally,  there is the long term cost of Global Climate Catastrophe due to the  burning of oil and other hydrocarbons.  A cost that is adding up to  Earth’s sixth major extinction, 90% loss of fish in the ocean,  desertification of Asia and the central portion of the US, melting polar  ice caps, storms, flooding, etc.

3.  Is Alternative Energy a real Alternative?

The idea of reducing  the use of fossil fuels to improve health is “twisted science,” said  Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive  Enterprise Institute.–Common Dreams

Then there is the completely unquantifiable cost of the loss of  our democracy.  It probably would not surprise you to know that BP (a  foreign owned corporation) was in the top 20 lobbying groups in  Washington.  It spent $16 million  in Washington last year and with the  recent Citizen United Supreme Court decision it can spend as much as it  wants to fund the campaigns of politicians who will not hold them  accountable for this spill. (RadioEcoShock)  As Exxon and BP manipulate our  government by buying off our representatives, we lose control of our  government.  A fact brought home by the parties BP was throwing for the  regulators that were supposed to be watching them.
But despite the cost, oil is our only  choice, right?  There is no other substance that releases as much energy  when burned.  While it is true that oil is a very energy dense  substance, that does not mean we can not convert our society to  renewable energy.  When considering the efficiency of oil we do not  consider the cost of getting it out of the soil, paid by tax payers, the  cost of defending it, paid by tax payers via the military, the cost of  burning it, paid by those who get sick and to the profit of the health  care industry.

The other  trick of the “nothing is as efficient as oil” dogma is to talk about how  no one energy source can give us as much energy as oil.  That is true.   No ONE source.  We can not choose one source of renewable energy, we  must develop wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energies all at once in  order to replace oil.  We must also learn to use less energy by using it  more efficiently in the first place and not using it to grow our GDP as  Tim Garrett points out.  Can this be done?  Yes.

In 1979, in the wake of the oil embargo, the Solar Energy  Research Institute (SERI) studied the possibility of converting the US  to alternative energies.  This study was actively suppressed by our own  government.

This comprehensive study showed that it was possible to  construct a program that achieved a full-employment economy while  reducing national consumption of energy by nearly 25 percent (with 20 to  30 percent of this reduced demand supplied by renewable sources).  However, by then President Ronald Reagan was in office and intent on  shifting policy away from efficiency and renewables back to conventional  fuels.

At  later congressional hearings the two principal authors of the SERI  study testified that they were subjected to maneuvers designed to keep  the study from being published. They encountered protracted in-house  reviews by the Department of Energy, direct instructions to withhold  information from the public, and threats to their jobs if these  instructions weren’t followed. Consistent with the shift back, the  director of SERI was asked to leave while transfers, extensive layoffs,  and sharp reductions in SERFs budgets gutted efficiency and renewable  energy programs.–Bnet

And again  in 1988 a team of experts in energy analysed energy policy with the  objective of creating a sustainable energy policy for the globe.  Again  rejected by the powers that run the planet.

About a decade later in  1988 a team of expert energy analysts from varied regions investigated  the formulation of an energy policy that could lead to a “sustainable  world.” By this the investigators meant a world in which the entire  population enjoyed the material well-being taken for granted in the  industrial nations. They sought an energy system that would minimize  environmental degradation and reduce tensions between nations. Not  surprisingly, the energy scenario reached these goals (as did the SERI  study) by resting on available efficiency-improving technologies and  expanding the use of renewables. The blueprint that resulted from this  study achieved these goals with less than a 10 percent increase in  global use of fuels and electricity above 1980 levels. One commentator  described this investigation as possibly “the most important single  contribution thus far to the global energy debate.” The strategy and its  goals were widely praised, then ignored in favor of business–and  energy use–as usual.

In 2001 an expanded  version of the “sustainable world” team released a report entitled World  Energy Assessment that has been characterized as the “most  comprehensive and far-reaching single volume on energy policy ever  published.” This assessment, initiated jointly by the United Nations  Development Programme, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,  and the World Energy Council, was incorporated into the 2002  Sustainable Development Summit. Although the investigators acknowledged  that overcoming the economic and political problems will take  time–which they warn is running out–they demonstrated that a change in  energy systems can transform the disastrous failure of current  development policy and its impending instability into a safer future.  When the powerful nations that dominated the agenda of the summit ruled  out consideration of energy, they squandered time that most people in  the world don’t have and condemned many of those people to disease and  premature death.–Bnet

Despite  his rhetoric about oil addiction, President Bush showed no real signs of  putting America through a 12 step program:

Back in the United States the  suppression of information about a more benign energy path continues.  Just before Bush took office, scientists from five of the national  laboratories completed studies that could have had immediate  applicability. These analysts showed that aggressive steps to promote  energy efficiency could reduce hundreds of new power plants required  under the administration’s energy plan. Not surprisingly, as reporter  Joseph Kahn disclosed in the New York Times, the administration “has not  publicized these findings.”–Bnet

And still we fair no better with “change you can  believe in”.  

Last year Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Mark  Delucchi (U. of CA, Davis) did a study published in Scientific America, showing that the  world could indeed convert to renewable energy.  In fact it would  save energy and money.  They even went further and showed that the  entire world could be run on wind energy or solar energy alone!  The US  could convert to this system for as little as $420 billion.  Less than the current  projected cost of new coal plants, and nuclear power plants.  Despite  this incredible work the two researchers have faced the same fate as  their predecessors.

Finally, they conclude that  the most significant barrier to the implementing a renewable energy plan  is the strangle hold the current energy industries have on Congress.   The technologies being promoted by the dominant energy industries are  not renewable and even the cleanest of them emit significantly more  carbon and air pollution than wind, water and sun energy generation.

If  the world allows carbon- and air pollution-emitting energy sources to  play a substantial role in the future energy mix, Jacobson said, global  temperatures and health problems will only continue to increase.–Stanford

Still the  answer seems to be “no we can’t”.  The real reason we can’t has less to  do with the innate properties of oil and everything to do with the  innate properties of money and power.  Solar panels and wind mills can  be built and owned by anyone.  They can not be monopolized by BP and  Exxon.  Tidal energy occurs anywhere there is an ocean.  Again, too  diffuse to be controlled.  There is no easy way to get the tax payer to  bear the brunt of the burden for manufacture while some companies take  all the profit either.  Therefore, despite the well researched and  documented benefits of switching to renewable energy, despite the  multitude of plans for getting off the oil, we remain addicts to the  last.

Financial  Times Interviews Mark  Jacobson