“All of the Above”: Most Meaningless Slogan Ever

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    Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    We elect politicians to make decisions.  When they refuse to take a stand, it’s our job to hold them accountable.  

    Yet somehow that rule seems to have a huge loophole when it comes to energy.  Because the one thing politicians across the spectrum seem to agree on is the need for an “all of the above” energy policy.  And we allow them to get away with this cop-out.  

    “All of the above” is not a policy, it is the absence of a policy.  Have you ever heard of an “all of the above” foreign policy?  Maybe an “all of the above” economic policy?    How about an “all of the above” policy on abortion?  Such things sound absurd because they are.

    Granted, politics and government often leave us with policies that incorporate opposing positions, once we’ve ground through the process of give-and-take. But rarely does anyone start with an “all of the above” position.  It’s where you may end up after you’ve tried to protect your ground while giving away as little of your positions, and your soul, as you can.  If you start with “all of the above” as your position, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get nothing.  

    Remember that famous quote from Martin Luther King? “I have a dream…of an ‘all of the above’ civil rights policy where we simultaneously protect and deny the rights of all Americans.”  Me neither.  

    Why is energy treated differently?  

    First, we have driven civilization into such a mess, with systems and lifestyles that waste unbelievable amounts of energy, while letting ourselves become utterly dependent on fossil fuels to meet those needs, that we cannot simply snap our fingers and have a renewable-energy-based economy tomorrow.  It will take a very thoughtful strategy with many interlocking elements. So, this complex situation gives politicians an excuse to refuse to develop such a strategy or even to set priorities — easier to just say “all of the above”.  

    The problem is that “all of the above” just allows the most wealthy and powerful forces in society — the oil, gas and coal companies — to continue to win at business as usual, maintaining their collection of purchased politicians, laws and regulations and leveraging that position to get whatever they want. This is why I tend to pronounce the term as “oil of the above.”

    And indeed, that power dynamic is the second reason for “all of the above” — because politicians see the massive imbalance of power between players like Exxon-Mobil and Koch vs. environmentalists and they go with the side more likely to keep them forever encrusted in power.  “All of the above” allows the politicians to side with the fat cats while sounding even-handed and open-minded.

    Next time you hear a politician pronounce these weasel words, ask them what percentage of their “all of the above” strategy includes the massive investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development and deployment that is unavoidably necessary to avert climate disaster and gain energy freedom.

    And no, don’t accept any lame answers about how they put up a few solar panels on their outhouse or how they always recycle their tuna cans. We’re past the point where a few symbolic gestures are going to save us. We need a dedicated Apollo-like program to get where we need to be, for the sake of our children and grandchildren.  

    We can only get there through honest debate, not through meaningless rhetoric.