March 31, 2005

Guns and Gasoline: A Reprise

Earlier today I was skimming over some of the content on a message board at which I frequently post and I ran across a link to an op-ed that Tom Friedman wrote which appeared in the 27 March 2005 edition of the New York Times. The op-ed was typical Friedman: thought-provoking, insightful, and unafraid.

In the piece, Friedman makes note of the particular (and peculiar) lack of overt effort that President Bush has made during his tenure at establishing a policy of sustainable energy production and consumption. This seems to be true, as environmental issues seemed to not be pressing for this President or the Congress, and this was especially apparent during the election cycle, as the topics that one could relate directly to the environment appeared to take a back seat to "social" issues, such as Dick Cheney's daughter being a lesbian, and John Kerry's flip-floppitude.

Friedman mentions that the administration has made no effort at providing incentive for people to cut energy demand/consumption and in so doing, is working contrary to the efforts of the war on terror and the stated efforts of democratization in the Middle East. Consider this: much of our imported petrol comes from sources derived in Saudi Arabia, whose government is among the most opressive in the world, receiving a 7 (on a 1-7 scale, 1 being the freest and 7 the least free) on both political rights and civil liberties scales in the 2005 Freedom House report. (For a table showing almost all sovereign states, visit: Freedom House 2005 Table for Independent Countries and the complete report is available HERE.) So, we are financing a crushingly repressive government, flying directly in the face of the supposed efforts by the administration to spread democracy abroad. By keeping our roots and interests firmly rooted in Saudi Arabia, exploiting their resources, we are further inciting terrorists, by treating their homelands as our own playgrounds.

This is so far saying nothing of the increased output of greenhouse gases (which are very real) with the increased usage of currently relatively inefficient automobiles. Current personal vehicle milage averages in the 23-25 miles per gallon, with sports utility vehicles having lower MPG and smaller coupes having higher MPG. Friedman cites an article from Wired magazine exploring hybrid vehicles, stating that hybrid automobiles get forty to fifty miles per gallon and have very low CO and CO2 emissions. Particularly striking to him, as it would have been to me, were the following figures provided in the Wired article: There are currently 800 million cars in active use and with the expected growth of India and China, that number is projected to reach 3,250 million (3.25 billion).

Friedman proposes a basic rubric to help solve the multifaceted problem of this lack of coherent and sustainable energy policy. He proposes creating tax which would peg the price of gasoline at $4 per gallon, even if the price of crude were to decrease. I would assume that this tax would be a sliding one, as gas prices themselves would vary with market forces and that the tax would increase should the price of gasoline increase $4 per gallon. He assumes, perhaps correctly or incorrectly (it remains to be seen), that as a result of the staggering increase in price, people will be compelled to purchase cars that are much more efficient on gasoline, such as hybrid vehicles, or ethanol-based engines. Given the frequently questionable logic of the American public, I won't go to the bank on the idea, in spite of personally being very much in favor of it.

Small steps have been made in recent days by the administration to get baby-step movement on non-fossil fueled vehicles, with the Dept of Energy announcing a deal with GM, working to help push for the creation of publicly available hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a cost of $380 million. (U.S. goal:
Fuel cell cars for masses in 2020
- MSNBC; Automakers, U.S. to Develop Fuel Cell Cars - Yahoo/AP) These small steps are coming too late, however, as the government has already plundered billions of dollars on the "war on terror" that it is (unintentionally?) helping to finance. Furthermore, the target date is 15 years down the line, even though much of this technology has existed, so far as I can recall, since at least the start of the decade.

Ugh... that's enough ranting for now.


March 15, 2005

The Exblownent

Baldwin-Wallace College has a plethora of talent within her halls of academic erudition. From political science majors assiduously working away at the Malicky Center for Social Sciences to the understudies of the theater department rehearsing for the next one-act in Kleist, it can easily be asserted that there is a highly proficient student body at this school of liberal arts. However, it seems that there is one weak spot, one kink in BW's armor, and it flourishes in a certain forum. The college newspaper, The Exponent, is filled with articles pertaining to student life, Greek Life, Student Government, entertainment, sports, and other topics of interest to a student body. The Exponent is student-run, all of the editors, writers (save for the occasional editorial from a professor), and managers are undergraduate students at Baldwin-Wallace, which gives it a great deal of independence from administrative oversight and censorship.

This kink is a problem that seems endemic with most college students recently: the inability to write well or even so far as to write in reporting form. This problem manifests itself on the pages on The Exponent. Front page stories provide wonderful editorializing insights as to how the author feels on a certain matter, although most people wouldn't recognize it as such, as the content of the editorialization is rarely negative. A recent example of the editorializing that occurred in a recent issue of The Exponent was written as follows (on the band 'Return of Simple'), "They had an awesome piano part, and sounded good all together. My favorite part was when they covered Ben Folds Five; they did an awesome job!" Apart from the brazenly simplistic writing of the author, who shall not be named, there was a tremendous amount of editorializing taking place. "My favorite part..." "They had an awesome piano part..." "They did an awesome job." All three of those comments lend to the reader the idea that the author really likes the band, but it doesn't say who the members of Return of Simple are, which Ben Folds Five song was covered or even what made the performance so "awesome".

How does this type of writing affect Baldwin-Wallace College? Many students attending the school believe that there is no truly viable student newspaper on campus, even with the renegade Maelstrom, which was started two years ago as an artistic and editorial sheet. Many students lack the time to be able to provide to The Exponent, so it should be incumbent upon the writers at the paper to furnish the best product to the students that can be done. How can this improvement be done? BW offers a rudimentary Intro to Journalism class, ENG-132, and requiring staff writers and editors to have taken this course may help alleviate problems with poor journalistic skills.

These are just thoughts and certainly nothing more than my opinions, musings, and ramblings. I don't believe that I speak on behalf of the entire student body when asserting these claims, but I do know that there are people who feel similarly. And for sure: it's nothing more than my point of view.