Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Very Convenient Truth -- The Great Set-Up

Gordon Campbell, meet King David.

King David at his worst -- in his worst time of temptation.

In the books of Samuel, we read what happened when David saw Bathsheba. Despite the fact that she was married, he lusted after her, desired to have her, became to obsessed about her that he first seduced her ("it's good to be king," as the line from the Mel Brooks movie went), then set out to take her from her husband. Or, more accurately, to take her husband from her. Completely in the grip of Satan, David ordered her husband sent to the front lines in the upcoming battle and, sure enough, he was killed. David, playing the Caring and Compassionate Comforter, "took care" of her and, in essence, "claimed the prize".

What does this have to do with Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia?

More than you might think, really.

See, Gordon has been riding off madly in all directions, trying to turn around the MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER British Columbia is apparently heading into because of global warming. Hey: you get to meet a former vice-president and a former Mr Universe, so the perks are pretty good (if you like that sort of thing). In the past couple of months, he's introduced the carbon tax (a couple of previous entries have dealt with that in terms of witchcraft and mind manipulation -- a new meaning for the term "voodoo economics"), and last year, he set a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions, by 2020, by one third of their 2007 levels.

Now, the provincial government is bringing in legislation requiring fuel suppliers to supply 5% "renewable" fuels by 2010: that is, fuels developed from sources like vegetable oil or ethanol or biodiesel.

Great leadership, right? Wonderfully visionary, don't you agree? Just one problem: is anyone capable of following the leader?

An oil industry rep in BC points out a couple of problems. Never mind that they're being mandated to do something that has little market appeal right now (he says the fact that there hasn't been the demand so far indicates the kind of economic argument for producing and selling renewable fuels): they have to import the fuels because there are no production facilities in BC; biodiesel, because of the plant oils it contains, gells at low temperatures -- much "warmer" than petrodiesel does, say around -6 C. Colleagues of mine at TransLink have pointed out, too, that biodiesel clogs fuel filters more readily, so the filters on buses have to be changed out more often, leading to a higher cost in that area.

But the government of Gordon Campbell has mandated it, cloaking itself in the mantle of a visionary.

Similarly, another colleague of mine has pointed out that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, which public transportation is able to reduce through eliminating as many private vehicles as possible from the roads, is just a sliver of the amount by which BC would have to cut emissions in order to meet the goal set by the government of Gordon Campbell. This begs the question, how else will those emissions be cut?

That question is wide-open, and I'm more than a little apprehensive about any further "answers" coming from the Campbell government because they will inevitably contain more mandates and more rules for other people to follow. The premier, switching to a hybrid car for his personal transport may be a show of leadership, but is of absolutely no comfort to the small businessperson who needs a van or a pickup or (God forbid) an SUV to do their job, or the working-class family that can only afford an older vehicle to move their family around.

So here's the connection to David: David wanted the prize so badly, he set up another man to go to the front lines and get killed, while he sat back in the palace and claimed the prize. The government -- and not just Gordon Campbell's government, but any other government that desperately wants the prize of being seen as environmental leaders and visionaries -- sets up others (ordinary citizens, the oil and gas and automobile industries, transportation planners, and so forth) to go to the front lines with mandates to achieve goals that may not be possible to achieve or may have unintended consequences. Then, if those on the front lines fail -- i.e. the goals are not met by the timetables they've laid out -- the visionaries can sit back and claim the glory for having thought of the idea, but also shrug their shoulders and say, "ah well, the people who were supposed to come through for us failed at the task".

Or, as Jim Bouton put it in one of has baseball tell-all books, "I managed good, but boy, did they play bad!"

In other words, we're looking at a feel-good political gambit by politicians, and everyone but the politicians gets to take the fall.

There's something else to remember: the portion of the Bible that describes this incident with David and Bathsheba and Uriah -- 2 Sam 11 -- says it was the time of year when kings went forth to battle, "but David tarried at Jerusalem". In other words, David neglected his duty as a king (namely, going forth to battle): he sent Joab in his place while he stayed home, thereby stepping outside the will of God and into the line of temptation.

What duties is Gordon Campbell (in particular, but any such government in general) neglecting for the sake of "the prize" -- at the least, perception that he's taking the lead in the epic struggle against global warming, and at worst, who knows? There are concerns about basic infrastructure (have you driven down Kingsway lately?), health care and education, but those concerns are drowned out by the din over reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving the planet.

If you're worried about greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, climate change, environmental trauma (as I prefer to put it) or anything like that, just grab onto 2 Chronicles 7:14 for all it's worth: "if My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, then will I listen from Heaven, and will hear their prayers, and will heal their land". That's all we need to know: get back in line with God and watch things turn around!

One more cautionary note about the BC government's "visionary" policies and statements: when David sent Uriah off to be killed so he could claim Bathsheba, the Lord punished David by killing the couple's first-born child. What will that "first-born sacrifice" be, I wonder?

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