It’s a bright, sunny day here at CJR Daily World Headquarters, but the forecast is stormy in the blogosphere, where the New York Times’ John Tierney is coming under eco-friendly fire for his latest provocative column, entitled “Burn, Baby, Burn.”
“The problem with Americans is not that we’re addicted to oil. As soon as oil becomes more trouble than it’s worth, we will sensibly stop putting it in our cars. Until then, our problem is that we’re addicted to politicians with plans for energy independence, like the Advanced Energy Initiative introduced by President Bush in his budget,” Tierney wrote yesterday (subscription required). “When something finally comes along that’s cheaper and more reliable than oil, no national energy plan will be necessary. Capitalists will be ready to sell it to eager American drivers. For now, the best strategy is to buy gasoline and stop worrying that it’s sinful or dangerous.”
Tierney concluded the column with his tongue-in-cheek “plan for energy independence”: “After you fill up your tank, twist the rear-view mirror so you can gaze at yourself. Repeat these words: ‘I’m good enough, I’m rich enough, and doggone it, people in the Middle East like my money.’”
You can imagine how that went over in the greener corners of the blogosphere.
At the Oil Drum, Yankee expressed mild annoyance, writing: “In a nutshell, he dismisses any possible future energy problems, because he just assumes that the next, latest, greatest thing will inevitably come along. … I’m very frustrated by this, you know?”
Brilliant at Breakfast struck with more venom, saying she was amazed that Tierney “actually gets paid by the New York Times to write this stuff. There was a time when there were actually thoughtful opinions on the right. The early adherents to the neocon movement; guys like Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol and the other lunatics for whose books I used to write jacket and catalog copy [for] back in the early 1980’s when I worked at Simon & Schuster were wrong, but at least they arrived at their right-wing views via something approaching a thought process,” said Brilliant. “Today we have people like Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter — and John Tierney.”
Arguing that “the entire op-ed is attacking a straw man,” Mr. Alec called the piece “truly the least logical op-ed written by anyone, and that’s even including Maureen Dowd. … Tierney offers absolutely no reason to use oil, despite saying at the beginning of the op-ed that he will, but instead attacks reasons for energy independence,” wrote Alec, not happy that he shares a last name with the Timesman.
“John Tierney is a dolt. OK, that might be shrill and not so nice. But I can’t really come up with anything else when I read the intro and conclusion to his latest column,” contributed Cracks in the Facade. “I’ll admit that oil is the heart of our economy and that we don’t have much of a true, societal-wide solution right now to replace it. But if we leave it up to just market forces to decide what our next energy source will be, it will be too late — from both a global warming and a peak oil point of view.”
Saying Tierney equates the market with a “fairy godmother,” David Roberts at the environmental news blog Gristmill can’t help but toss off a few insults before asking some serious questions. “What dreamy market idealists like this never seem to consider is that the uninhibited development of a market economy is perfectly compatible with a great deal of pain,” Roberts wrote. If “the oil peak comes sooner than anybody thinks,” or “war breaks out in the Middle East,” or “terrorists disable multiple major oil pipelines simultaneously,” he says, “People will lose jobs. They will lose houses. They will lose food. People will suffer. Lots of people. And this will be a perfectly natural market response.”