27 Jun 2013

American priorities?

Real happiness?
Americans are famous for their large portions and proportions, which may indicate that they've lost their sense of scale.

Start with the Keystone XL, which would run 1,900 km from Canada to Nebraska and carry 890,000 barrels of oil a day (bbl/d). The existing Keystone (not XL) pipeline already carries 590,000 bbl/d on the 3,400 km between Alberta to Illinois.

Next, consider that Americans consume 18.9 million bbl/d and the country is crossed by 244,000 km of oil pipelines -- and 548,000 km of natural gas pipelines. The Keystone XL would, therefore, add about 0.7 percent to the length of US pipelines. It would not change American oil consumption (demand); it would only change whose oil we'd consume (supply mix).

Now, reflect on the fact that the US government spends over $1 trillion per year on "defense" but we have not -- I'd argue -- had to defend ourselves against invasion since World War II. The budgets of similarly misnamed "Homeland Security" and "National Intelligence" agencies are $46 billion and $80 billion per year (perhaps more, since budgets are also a secret). These figures mean that Americans pay about $3,600 each for "services" that may not be effective. Even worse, we now know of massive, unconstitutional, and useless (as far as terrorism is concerned) spying on Americans by the NSA et al. We are, in other words, paying to be violated by nearly one million "top secret" people who watch us, criminalize us on secret lists, and occasionally torture or kill us (whoops!). Many spies work as contractors mercenaries for government bureaucracies that are overseen by secret courts and tribunals whose members, rules and decisions are secret-secret -- we can't even know what secrets they are discussing, but we do know that citizens are seen as part of the problem:

So how much weight do Americans put on these two issues?

Google returns 207,000 hits for "Keystone XL protest", i.e., Americans protesting against a pipeline that brings oil that Americans demand. The government has very little control over that demand (except perhaps through energy taxes or regulations). In April, 50,000 people marched on Washington DC.

Google returns 2,800 hits for "NSA protest", i.e., Americans protesting against the infringement of our rights, using our money, by agencies that are totally controlled by the US government. "Dozens" have protested the NSA in Washington DC.*

Bottom Line: I'm really wondering where Americans left their senses of perspective, proportion and violation? It seems that Americans think stopping ONE pipeline is going to reverse climate change? It seems that Americans think that spying, killing, invading, and terrorizing people here and abroad is making the world a better place. It seems that Americans think pushing a string will save the planet at the same time as they think that it's a great idea to pay for the noose that's tightening around their necks. Seriously. WTF?

* Some people are organizing "Restore the 4th [Amendment]" protests for July 4th. Good.

Addendum: Frank and Martin have a GREAT POST on exactly this topic -- priorities -- that puts on a positive spin (use the money for human development instead of destruction). Hear hear!