There's something satisfyingly symbolic about the unfolding Solyndra scandal. A government "investment" based on a totally spurious Green rationale collapses, threatening to take part of the administration with it. What more apt illustration of the current status of environmentalism? It could scarcely go better if you'd scripted it.
It's often been said that Obama is a closet Marxist out to transform the U.S. into something resembling a people's republic. I've never completely agreed with this contention. For one thing, he's not precisely a Marxist; he's a Marxisant, a useful French word denoting someone who has memorized all the slogans while not bothering his head with any of the theory. "Spread the wealth around" is a pure Marxisant statement, just as his attempts to stir up class hatred against private jet-owning billionaires is pure Marxisant behavior. An actual Marxist would be far more subtle and convoluted, thanks to his grasp of theory and revolutionary tradition. Obama has neither. What he practices is bong politics, the kind of thing you'd hear in the college dorm after the third or fourth bowl: "If I was running things, man, I'd like, get rid of money, y'know? Money messes with your head, right? So you get rid of it, and then..."
It would be much closer to the point, and fitting in nicely with the bong ideal, to say that Obama wishes to establish a "watermelon" state, in which strict centralization and collectivization are implemented to create not a worker's paradise, but a Green utopia. Consider the fact that many of Obama's policies -- and almost all of the most noxious ones -- are in service of some environmentalist daydream or other. Shutting down Gulf oil exploration; new and onerous regulations for coal plants; attempts to halt exploitation of the Marcellus shale; foot-dragging on the Keystone XL pipeline; promotion of electric cars, wind power, bullet trains, and what have you.
"Obamanomics," as James Pethokoukis recently put it, "is about the top-down redistribution of wealth and income. Government spending on various 'green' subsidies and programs, along with a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, would enrich key Democrat constituencies: lawyers, public sector unions, academia and non-profits." Pure communism is no longer the goal -- it's the environmentalist state that lies closest to the heart of the modern social democrat. Obama is unquestionably an authoritarian, an autocrat, whatever you wish to call him, but his hue is as much green as it is red.
So it's a real pleasure to see the entire environmentalist edifice falling to pieces just as they thought victory was in their hands. Cap 'n' trade was dead on arrival. Global warming is unlikely to recover from the e-mail scandal, however far the cover-up may extend. The electric automobile has turned out to be less an automotive revolution than a third car for wealthy Democratic donors. And now the centerpiece of the Green agenda, renewable energy, has taken what may well turn out to be a mortal hit.
Note that none of these were brought about by rational arguments or serious opposition. Rationality per se has never made so much as a dent in the green worldview. What happened was that all the green innovations reached a certain point where they could no longer be sustained by the illusions of the faithful, whereupon they crashed and burned. They were overcome by their own internal contradictions more than any other single factor.
Rational opposition to the greens has consistently misinterpreted the movement's core beliefs. Critics have concentrated on arguments that wind, solar, and squirrel-on-a-treadmill power cannot replace brute force methods such as nuclear, coal, and oil. That electric go-carts are no substitute for technologically mature internal-combustion cars, that bullet trains cannot possibly compete with jetliners. All this is true -- and all this is irrelevant.
It's all irrelevant because green initiatives are not meant to replace anything. They are intended to form the basis of a new, deindustrialized society with minimal power generation, limited air travel (or travel of any sort, for that matter), and local, nonindustrial economies. In a green society, there will be no massive power plants, no private automobiles, no jetliners. There will be no industrial products at all beyond those required by the environmentalist elite. Picture Al Gore, his staff, and a half-million peasants. That is the green United States of the 22nd century.
As I pointed out in Death by Liberalism, environmentalists have in no way been reticent about the type of society they're aiming for -- one as close to that of Neolithic hunter-gatherers as possible. That was the last point in time when human beings were fully integrated into the ecology, when they dominated nothing, and were in large part simply animals that talked.
The goal is not to save resources or to conserve the environment. It is to restore human beings to a point where they are simply another part of the ecology. It will not be purely Neolithic -- however close they may be to Mother Gaia, greens have no desire to spend their nights in caves. Agriculture will be necessary to raise ethanol crops (not to mention arugula) for the green aristocracy. It will be a village culture, poor, primitive, and ignorant of anything other than the fact that humanity has sinned against Gaia and must make amends. Only the green elite will be allowed power, travel, and information.
This is the society that the premises accepted by Al Gore, John Holdren, Lisa Jackson, and Barack Obama will lead to. (Though as stated above, Obama probably grasps only the slogans.) What they have been engaged in is setting up the basic framework for such a system.
So rational debate about kilowatt-hours, ridership, vehicle range, or anything else is simply beside the point. The California bullet train goes from nowhere to nowhere because it is supposed to go from nowhere to nowhere. There is no point in connecting LA, San Francisco, and San Diego if those cities are going to be shrunken to a tiny fraction of their current size, granted that they are allowed to remain at all. Those cities are unsustainable as they now exist, and will be shut down under any serious environmentalist regime. The bullet train's current path instead is limited to the Central Valley, the state's primary agricultural area. Conclusions can be left as an exercise for the student.
The same is true of the fossil fuel industry. The discovery that the Marcellus shale formations of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York hold up to 400 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would gladden the heart of any true environmentalist, who would trade safe, clean-burning domestic fuel for smelly foreign oil in a second. But this discovery interferes with the long-term green agenda: cutting off access to fossil fuels, then shutting down entire industries as their power source vanishes. So gas shale exploitation must be strangled -- the ideal requires it.
Deindustrialization, depopulation, a global return to a style of living not seen since the medieval period -- with modern medicine, cybernetics, and alternate power for the lucky, of course. Conservatives simply don't grasp this, any more than the Russian aristocracy grasped the truth of revolutionary socialism. They knew that the revolutionaries were a threat, that any society run by their like would be a disaster, but they could not get their minds around the fact that the fate planned for them and their entire class was annihilation, either in the cellars of the Lubyanka or in the snows of Siberia. What we look back on as history was not even a nightmare to those people.
So it's good to see the greens fail. Not due to resistance, though there has been no small amount, and it is increasing. It is more due to sheer unworthiness to exist. The problem for the greens is that there is no single step from current reality to their utopia. They must make a series of small steps, and none of those small steps are feasible. Almost no one will buy their electric zipmobiles. Their solar power tech can't succeed even with half-billion-dollar subsidies. The AGW crowd can't convince anybody even with the help of open scientific fraud and a near-total media blackout.
Fourteen more subsidy applications by renewables firms are pending. The long collapse has only begun.*
*Breaking news: the Energy Department on September 23 turned down a $275 loan guarantee to Solar City LLC while First Solar was unable to meet the deadline for a $1.9-billion guarantee.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.