“FINALLY!” Sandy’s Political Effects

As a result of Sandy’s devastation of the east coast (killing 38 people and causing billions of dollars in damage), political figures began speaking out about lowering greenhouse gas emission and having our nation better prepared for “super storms.” I can now breathe a breath of relief, I KNOW this stuff! Finally, at the end of my blogging journey, my issue takes the forefront of the debates, and I could not be more ecstatic because of my ability to interpret the situation and enlighten others about its implications. But, to inform you more thoroughly, I found several news articles particularly interesting.

In a major announcement on November 1st, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced his decision to endorse President Barack Obama. Bloomberg had been highly critical of both candidates during the presidential debates, citing their failure to address the highly important issue of climate change. Bloomberg said that Obama was the better candidate to deal with climate change, and also highlighted the fact that Sandy could have been due to climate change. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial:

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief. Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s endorsement could help Obama win independent voters around the country, and this would hold significant implications for the election.

The super-storm not only caused political figures to address the issue of climate change, but it also is directly affecting the election by dominating news coverage and halting both presidential candidate’s campaigns.

I encourage you all to look at these articles about Sandy’s election impact:

1. Are Humans to Blame?

2. On Hurricanes, Presidents, Climate and One Clear Human Factor in the Sandy Disaster

3. Will Sandy affect election’s outcome?

4. How Disasters Change Elections

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Self-Analysis

At the beginning of my blogging experience, I will admit to being rather skeptical and unsure about the assignment. I started off with little knowledge about my topic—the energy crisis–and about many of the other topics discussed by fellow bloggers. How was I supposed to grasp and understand this incredibly complex and ever changing topic in terms of the social sciences and politics? How was I supposed to remain interesting and intriguing for readers on the same topic for over a month?, Despite my doubts, I confronted these concerns by fully committing myself to my topic and my blog, “Save The Energy.” And I believe I came out on top.

My first week of blogging was a little bumpy as I began to search databases for news coverage and basic information regarding my topic. Although my first three blog posts were adequate, they failed to delve as deeply as I had hoped. The broad issue I began my blog with, “energy,” covered a large range of topics. I was unsure which one really sparked my interest and also was at the forefront of the debates. However, a major turning point in my blogging occurred when I watched the first presidential debate and I heard Obama and Romney discuss a few issues regarding oil and domestic drilling. At that moment, I realized I had a stake in the presidential election, and that my blog writing could help me not only learn more about the United States’ energy needs but also make a well-grounded, reasoned decision on election day for which candidate I would vote for. The blog became meaningful to me, and it was very helpful that the following week, our analysis post was due. I learned much more about my issue: its history, its history in politics, each presidential candidate’s stance on the issue, and its political and economical implications. From that day forward, I felt deeply attached and devoted to my issue. I not only understood it, but I had an urge to understand more and more.

In the weeks that followed, I was able to reach the level of “digging” and “delving” I had initially hoped for. I focused on the issue of energy dependency rather than “energy” in general. I was able to relate my topic to smaller facets regarding the issue, such as the rhetorical strategies each presidential candidate used to appeal to their respective audiences, or how our population is supposed to form unbiased opinions on an issue that is presented as a two way street- economy or environment. I was no longer simply looking at events in politics and how my issue related to them, but I was looking into how each statement said at various events related to my issue on a wider scale. I was able to make predictions regarding the future of energy in politics and the implications of leaving the issue unresolved based on my knowledge about the topic and research drawn from other posts throughout the course of the blog. I truly saw the way I thought about the issue evolve over the course of this month, and it was a spectacular experience. Watching the coverage over “Frankenstorm.” Sandy, has been a completely different experience for me, than it would have been a month ago. I watched coverage on this issue and immediately related it to the election and the social sciences.

My blog has accomplished everything I had hoped it would; it stimulated readers to leave comments that further pushed me to think about my issue, it was interactive with polls, pictures, and video clips for my readers to watch, it shows my evolution as a thinker in regards to energy, and most importantly, it made me feel certain in the presidential candidate I circled on October 31st, 2012, when I voted for the first time in my life.

Fellow Bloggers

Several of my classmates blog as well, and delve into issues regarding more specific forms of energy. I recommend two blogs, one focused on hydraulic fracturing, and another on nuclear energy.

http://down2frack.wordpress.com/ Hydraulic fracturing is an emerging technology that extracts natural gas and oil from shale rock formations far beneath the earth’s surface. “Fracking” is combined with another technique referred to as “horizontal drilling” to tap into reserves that were previously unreachable. This technique has fostered lots of domestic oil and gas production over the past years, but scientists and researchers worry that the chemicals involved in “fracking” may leak into aquifers and contaminate water supplies. This blog analyzes the positives and negatives of fracking, points out how the nation receives contradictory information on fracking, and highlights fracking’s potential to create jobs and boost the economy. Through the blog, the blogger’s opinion on fracking has evolved. This page is worth visiting because fracking is a possible solution to our dependency on foreign oil, but also because its position on the social sciences mocks my blog’s position.

http://wannabeforeigner.wordpress.com/ The nonproliferation movement seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and promote cooperation amongst nations through the peaceful use nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which has been extended indefinitely. The United States seeks to prevent other nations from inappropriately using nuclear energy to covertly make nuclear weapons. This page/blog examines each presidential candidate’s foreign policy, the history of nuclear energy, the implications of sanctions, defense spending, and the environmental implications of nuclear energy. I recommend this page because of its relationship with another form of energy production, nuclear energy, which could help end our dependency on foreign oil. Like the site mentioned above, this one also deals with our energy crisis.

The last blog I recommend is http://commonsarcasm.wordpress.com/, which blends blog humor with an analytical examination of the topic. Although this blog does not directly concern the issue of energy dependency, it offers valuable insight into another pressing issue of the 2012 election, marriage rights. This blog examines the relationship between marriage equality and church, the arguments regarding rights of homosexual couples to adopt, the history of marriage equality in politics, and Romney’s logical fallacies about marriage. I believe the blog is a good example of how to humorously analyze a serious issue, even one facing our nation. It also provides relevant information to help you form our opinion on the issue.

 

Extended Reading List

I would like to provide a “links” posting for my readers so that they can form their own opinion on the issue of energy dependency.  I have three specific sets of sites to recommend.

First, I suggest staying updated on media regarding the presidential election because, quite frequently, a small section or blurb on the energy crisis is included. For this class blog, for instance, we were required to watch three weekly shows; Colbert Report or Daily Show, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity on Fox News, and Rachel Maddow or Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC. Watching these shows not only helped me learn how each political party forms their arguments but also how energy relates to politics and the candidates’ rhetorical strategies.

News links from all sides of the issue:

Secondly, I recommend that readers become well informed on the topic of energy dependency before delving into the political side of the issue. Here are a few sites that I believe provide a wealth of information: Also, make sure to look at each site’s hyperlinks because they usually will transfer you to other credible sites on the issue. (Even though some are government websites, they are providing facts and statistics released through the corresponding government agency.)

Thirdly, I advise reading each political candidate’s stance on energy dependency and how he/she plans on dealing with the issue and making a difference. (Make sure to check the environmental, economic, and social implications of their energy platform by referring back to factual science based websites.)

Once you are familiar with all issues related to the presidential election, able to recognize various forms of political rhetoric, educated on the facts and statistics regarding energy dependency, and knowledgeable about each candidate’s stance on the issue, you should be able to form a reasoned, unbiased opinion on the issue and make educated decisions regarding voting. Energy is always evolving through emerging studies and research, so you will always be able to find out more. Continue to read sources like those I’ve recommended to stay updated on the energy issues facing our nation.

Implications Post: Future of the United States, Unresolved Energy Dependency Issue

The future of America’s dependency on foreign energy could take several damaging paths if this issue remains unresolved. The two, mutually exclusive positions taken by the Democratic and Republican parties will create a standstill in legislative reform which could potentially benefit both parties and, most importantly, satisfy America’s energy needs. I am going to paint pictures of two possible futures: Which one sounds better to you?

1. Fast-forward a few decades if the issue is unresolved: America remains largely governed by the environmental laws enacted as of today (which we have to recognize may change depending upon which candidate wins the presidential election.) Depending on the president in office, we will either remain dependent upon non-renewable energy sources and possibly begin the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which will cause toxic waste and pollution. Alternatively, we could face fiscal issues created by failed plans, such as funding of unsuccessful green energy projects.

2. Fast-forward a few decades if the issue is resolved: Politicians are working in concert with scientists and researchers to find the most fiscally responsible way of transitioning to clean energy sources, while using fossil fuels in a responsible, clean fashion. Wind, solar, and hydro energy sources are beginning to provide a vast amount of our domestic energy needs. We are reducing our dependence on unreliable oil-producing countries. Green energy projects and environmental projects will create many jobs to boost the economy. A healthy environment will mean healthy people, who will be more likely to stimulate the economy.

I should emphasize that the unresolved future is more positive for the future of our environment if the Democrats remain in charge rather than the Republicans. Democrats have largely supported the environmentalist movement and care for the well being of all the people in our nation. While the transition to clean energy may not be profitable at the start, its overall impact will be more positive.

Does the future of U.S. energy independence lie in the Keystone pipeline, which carries a type of crude oil that raises concerns amongst many environmentalists? Or does the future lie in green energy that faces fiscal challenges in the beginning, even with the support of taxpayer dollar? Or can we resolve this issue for once and create a centrist position that blends the best of both options?

Theory Post: Why do politicians find it almost innately impossible to cooperate?

The United States’ energy dependency arose when we began to rely on foreign sources for oil. The varying political positions on this issue have stemmed from basic political party platforms. Democrats tend to favor progressive taxation a social safety network, protection of workers, and an active role of government in society and believe that such a role- such as environmental regulations against pollution in the Clean Air Act- can improve the quality of people’s lives.

On the other hand, Republicans tend to favor reduced spending, a limited role of government in society, the free market, economic productivity, and individual responsibility. Although both parties ardently support the United States’ gaining energy independence, their views on how to accomplish this goal vary drastically.

Based on their basic political platform, Democrats hope to end the US dependency by supporting the transition to clean energy (wind or solar) and researching transformational energy sources. Republicans hope to end the dependency by supporting domestic onshore and offshore drilling and partnering with Canada and Mexico to bring oil into the United States. The Democratic plan accentuates quality of life and environmental impact, while the Republican plan accentuates the promotion of fiscal growth and job creation.

The only way to bring an end to the polarization of this issue is to create an economical and environmentally friendly plan that gives equal attention to both parties’ interests. Republicans would have to pay attention to environmental impacts and Democrats would have to pay attention to economic implications. The only other way I can imagine that may sway Republicans to place more importance on environmental impact is to create an extensive overview of our environmental footprint based on field studies and research. Ending mutually exclusive positions is all about presenting a factual analysis of the issue and then finding a meeting ground between ideologies. But is our nation capable of doing this? Is an effective government even possible given the current adversarial relationship between our two main political parties? The jury is still out.

 

Continuing the investigation of the Keystone Pipeline: Good or bad for America?

On the other side of the Keystone Pipeline issue, Republicans attacked Obama’s rejection of the project. Brendan Buck, the spokesman for John Boehner, said, “President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese. The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs. This is not the end of this fight.” This quote highlights Republicans’ support for American economy and security. The Keystone Pipeline would potentially create thousands of jobs and help boost the economy because local economies closeby the route will benefit from increases in tax revenues and business activity associated with temporary construction work in the area and the stable source of energy. This quote also highlights how Republicans may tend to skim around the environmental impact of the pipeline. Romney said, “By declaring that the Keystone pipeline is not in the ‘national interest,’ the president [Obama] demonstrates a lack of seriousness about bringing down unemployment, restoring economic growth and achieving energy independence.” Romney highlights the importance of the economy and reducing our vulnerability to other oil-producing countries, but fails to mention the possible environmental impacts.

Will the pipeline hurt our environment, our topsoil, and our farms? Will this dirty tar sand oil help make us energy independent? How many jobs will be created? The U.S. needs energy, and this will help, right? These common questions all face Americans interested in finding out more about the Keystone Pipeline. The proposed pipeline poses a threat to farmers, wildlife, and ranchers in the highly likely case of a leak. Also, by promoting the Canadian tar sands industry, we would also be promoting toxic waste and the release of dangerous chemicals into the air. TransCanada portrays a comforting image of the pipeline on their website. While they do mention the possible environmental risks, they make them seem very insignificant and highly unlikely. Americans need to be aware of the bias inherent in these differing rhetorical strategies when trying to form their own reasoned opinions. Are we capable of doing that? Or do our political parties prevent that from being possible?

 

Seeking the truth: The Keystone Pipeline

One of the major projects advocated by the U.S. Congress that directly deals with decreasing American dependency on foreign oil is the Keystone pipeline. I thought it would be interesting to evaluate the differing rhetoric used to support differing stances on this issue.

Here is some background information so you can begin positioning yourself on the issue: The Keystone pipeline is a proposed 1,897-km pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, The pipeline would supply the United States with hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day to meet our needs. With Canadian approval received from the National Energy Board in 2010, TransCanada, the construction company in charge of the project’s dissemination, awaits approval from U.S. regulators.

Presidential candidates, congressmen, and energy companies all have a say in this controversial issue. Obama has said he rejected the proposal in early January of 2012 because of the lack of time to adequately review the plan. He said, “the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.” This quote highlights Obama’s support of clean energy and environmental protection while also highlighting Obama’s patience in not hastily approving a program that lacks research.  Obama does not fail to mention his own disappointment in the rejection of the program because he also supports “commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.” Obama’s stance on the issue is well-rounded; he does not forget the importance of supporting America’s overall interests, but also recognizes the importance of our environment. Obama skims around the issue of the economy and the jobs that would be created from the project, because those are negative consequences of not accepting the proposal.

Obama’s position made me wonder how the population views this issue. Are they knowledgeable about the issue or do they listen to the two sides and simply make their decision based on the choice that the candidates present for them: economy or environment?

After really looking at public statements about issue, one can see that it is actually very difficult for us to know the truth. A NH-01 Congressman wrote that the KXL project, “is expected to immediately create 20,000 American jobs, and an additional 179,000 jobs through at least 2035 once the pipeline is fully operational in 2013.” But the Cornell University Global Labor Institute said, “The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada’s own data supplied to the State Department.”

Is this the reason the people of the United States find it difficult to become knowledgeable on these topics, when we cannot even distinguish true from false?

(In my next blog I will examine the rhetoric of the Republicans and TransCanada.)