Conservatives for Conservation

Conservatives should remember they can hate Al Gore, but still be for clean air, water

Here's something you might try. Turn off your overhead lights and your lamps tonight and walk through your house.

You will be surprised at the number of little red and green lights you will see. There's that digital clock on the stove. And the one on the microwave. Not to mention the one on the DVD player.

And the yellow and blue lights on that box on all four of your televisions where you get your cable or satellite signal. And the receiver for your Internet service. And the lights on your hibernating laptops and desktops. And the digital clock beside the bed.

If you have a fairly new house you will see little green lights peeking out of your electrical outlets. And what about that damn toaster, that has an LED-lighted window to set your preference for light or dark toasted bread. Really?

During the energy crisis of the 1970s we learned a good bit about energy conservation. We learned that clothes dryers and water heaters were the big drivers of energy usage. So manufacturers started to make energy efficient dryers. We learned about thermal blankets for water heaters and timers to turn them off while we are at work.

We also learned that electronic equipment did not use near as much power as the old analogs. In fact, we decided they were so energy efficient we didn't really ever need to turn them off. So we don't. Everything is on, ready for instant use. Even if we only use it once a day. Or once a week.

A recent story in The New York Times reveals that the most egregious energy waster these days is the box on top of your television, which never hibernates.

We talk about having an energy policy. We decry the pollution of coal-fired plants, worry about nuclear. But what are we doing to reduce our demand for more and more energy—much of which we waste?

I don't know if climate change is caused by man, but then you don't either. It may be CO2, or it might be the results of sunspots or centuries-long climate cycles. Something besides steel mills caused the last ice age. We know what we believe, but that's more a reflection of our politics rather than scientific knowledge. I suspect a position on "man-caused" global warming is more the result of what you think about Al Gore than what we know about science.

But rather than worry about the politics of the science, can't we all just agree that pollution is not a good thing, that wasting energy is stupid and expensive, and that we ought not damage the environment?

Republican Teddy Roosevelt started the national parks. Richard Nixon create the Environmental Protection Agency. Republican East Tennessee joined with FDR to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It is distressing today to hear Rush Limbaugh encourage his listeners to drive gas guzzlers as a protest. For Republican officeholders to disparage environmentalists. Yes, conservatives certainly have the obligation to argue the issue from the standpoint of their principles. Someone needs to point out that Cap and Trade is one of those public/private partnerships where the Wall Street boys make money and the taxpayers keep breathing bad air.

But if you are a conservative doesn't it imply a favorable attitude toward conservation? There are a lot of government regulations that are unnecessary and might cost jobs. But there is also a fairly large area of agreement on things that can be done to protect the environment. Conservatives should certainly applaud TVA's decision to shut down its two most inefficient polluting coal plants, the two cited in a North Carolina court case with poisoning the air over the Smokies.

We can also applaud efforts to stop the pollution of the Pigeon River by a North Carolina paper mill. And applaud the successes we have had in stopping Eastman Chemical from poisoning the fish in the Holston River.

Conservatives need to remember they can care for the environment and still hate Al Gore.