Gleaming Like Torches, Darting Like Lightning: Does God Love Fossil Fuel?

Before Senator By Appointment Only™* Dean Heller (R-NV) makes too many more comments about “failed” solar energy manufacturing efforts, it might do to note, as did Senator Harry Reid (D-NV):
Last year, Amonix CEO Brian Robert­son was tragically killed in a plane crash and unfortunately the company was unable to recover from this difficult time,” Reid said Wednesday in an email statement. “Some people will be tempted to use today’s unfortunate news for political gain. But I am hopeful that the bipartisan support for this project and the public-private partnership that helped make this and many other projects possible will not be degraded by dirty energy supporters for their own profit or political gain. The clean energy sector is too important to Nevada’s future, and I hope that those that publicly acknowledge this will continue to strengthen the bipartisan support for renewable energy programs and incentives that exists in Nevada.” [LVRJ]

The grant for the Amonix plant was approved by the George W. Bush administration in 2007, and eventually received $15.6 million in support.

The abject failure of the Humboldt Canal in 1863 doesn’t mean that all government subsidies for canal building were a loss.  Secondly, we need to step back a moment and note that government assistance — at all levels — for railroad construction in another era was not without its critics:

“Although the first railroads were successful, attempts to finance new ones originally failed as opposition was mounted by turnpike operators, canal companies, stagecoach companies and those who drove wagons. Opposition was mounted, in many cases, by tavern owners and innkeepers whose businesses were threatened. Sometimes opposition turned to violence. Religious leaders decried trains as sacrilegious. But the economic benefits of the railroad soon won over the skeptics.”  [USH.org]

Sound familiar?  There’s nothing like stalwartly defending the entrenched special interests (substitute oil companies for turnpike operators, canal companies, and stage coach firms above) to create a climate in which economic and technological progress is rendered extremely difficult.  The situation was similar in the U.K. after the opening of the Manchester-Liverpool Line.  In that instance, the landed gentry joined the stage coach companies and the canal owners in opposition to the construction of railroads, with conservative pastors quoting Nahum 2:4 on the destruction of Nineveh:

“The chariots race madly through the streets;
they rush to and fro through the squares;
they gleam like torches;
they dart like lightning.”

Yes, Nineveh didn’t survive the sacking in 616 BC, but Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Memphis did quite nicely as rail hubs for those “madly racing chariots.”  Evidently, more members of the national congregation were attending to sermons like those delivered by Reverend S.C. Aiken in 1851.

“This prophecy, reminds me of an occasion similar to the one, that has called so many strangers to our city: “when, on the opening of the Erie Canal, it was my privilege, on the Lord’s-Day, to address De Witt Clinton, and the Commissioners, in grateful recognition of the beneficent Providence, which had carried them on to the completion of a work, deemed chimerical by some and impolitic by others: but which has proved a highway for commerce, and made many a wilderness and solitary place to blossom as the rose.”

There is no small amount of danger for those who cite everything from Scripture to short term economic statistics in defense of the status quo.   If we wish to remain in the technological wilderness, making do with a primary emphasis on fossil fuels, we risk clogging our highways of commerce, and artificially stunting our own long term economic growth.  While other nations would like to “blossom as the rose,” opponents of alternative energy experiments would have us settle for the dandelions.

*”Senator By Appointment Only” is the sole product of The Gleaner, who can be found here.

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