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Friday, July 4, 2008

(Energy) Independence Day

As we contemplate, as we attempt to declare, independence from King Carbon, we should keep in mind that there are two kinds of freedom: “freedom to” and “freedom from.”

To be fair, under the reign of King Carbon, we have enjoyed: certain unalienable Rights. . . among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Freedom to. . .

A ’69 Mustang with a 390 engine, cherry red, the hood painted flat black and secured in front by two thin cables—the conceit being that, like a drag race funny car, the engine might blow at any moment and, if the hinges and hood latch didn’t hold, there would still be something to protect you from that slab of steel sailing at you through the windshield. I had a girlfriend in high school who used to drive this car to school on occasion; it was a gift her father had given himself—a classic midlife present.

When you mashed down the accelerator, all the clichés came immediately into force: the car gave a joyous roar, you were pressed back in your seat, and the trees that lined the parkway froze for a moment in your peripheral vision before blurring into a slick, hyper-drive, digital effect.

That was a gorgeous feeling.

And yes, it’s a symbol of American excess and of teenage irresponsibility, an atavistic, hydrocarb-punk infatuation with speed and power and the intoxicating scent of leaded premium. It serves no constructive purpose. And it’s a helluva a lotta fun.

On the other hand, we seek Freedom from. . . The variety of insults King Carbon has inflicted on our environment, which are serious and growing dire.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Can we have “freedom to” along with “freedom from”?

The Tesla is now in production: 0-60 in under four seconds, 256 mpg equivalent, 200 miles+ per charge. Don’t have the $109,000 in my piggybank right now, but maybe if I cut back on fireworks and bratwurst. . .

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