Activists like Richard Branson pride themselves on perpetual adolescence, seeing no contradiction between the jet-setting hedonism they practice and the abstemious environmentalism they preach. Energy Secretary Steven Chu's comparison of the American people to adolescents should offend these celebrity activists a bit.
"The American people…just like your teenage kids, aren't acting in a way that they should act," the Wall Street Journal quoted Chu as saying earlier this week, which added that environmental officials in the Obama administration have "launched a cross-country tour of 6,000 schools to teach students about climate change and energy efficiency."
Chu quickly denied that he compared Americans to heedless teenagers, though he does hope the American public will submit to the Obama administration's tutoring and see escalating energy costs as a great boon to the economy. According to his spokesman, Chu sees the "need to educate the broader public about how important clean energy industries are to our competitive position in the global economy." Now that Van Jones isn't around to talk about "green collar" jobs, Chu's task in convincing Americans to rejoice at losing their blue-collar ones is all that much harder.
If the American people are skeptical that thousands of dollars added to their energy bills in coming years and lost jobs from pulverized industries will improve their competitive position in life, they are not alone. China and Japan, among other nations keen on retaining their competitive position in the global economy, have no intention of signing an international climate pact at the upcoming summit in Copenhagen. These countries would prefer to pursue "independent climate goals," says the Washington Post.
And whether or not those will be kept is an open question, as Japan's prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, hedged: "Japan's efforts alone cannot halt climate change, even if it sets an ambitious reduction target."
So does this mean the "irreversible catastrophe" of which Obama spoke in his climate change talk at the UN will now happen? One would think so if global warming theory were true. But the peddlers of it never cancel their future plans after international climate pacts stall or dissolve.
Obama is confident that this "irreversible catastrophe" can be addressed in a "flexible and pragmatic" manner, which sounds about as plausible as his promise to expand health care coverage while cutting costs.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, in his speech to the UN reported by the Post, lamented one more year of empty talk.
"On cue, we stand here and tell you just how bad things are. We warn you that unless you act quickly and decisively, our homelands and others like it will disappear beneath the rising sea before the end of the century," he said. "But then, once the rhetoric has settled and the delegates have drifted away, the sympathy fades, and the indignation cools, and the world carries on as before."
Chu, for his part, doesn't sound all that worried. The Copenhagen accord isn't all that crucial after all. Focus, instead, on America's clean-energy plans, he told reporters.
But isn't "collective" action more important than ever in a world where America shouldn't be dominating? The torrent of blah-blah-blah speeches from Obama this week making that claim didn't stop him from acting like the Caesar of the world. He peppered his speeches with implied criticisms of the previous administration that alternated between casting it as a thug and a "bystander."
Meanwhile, we're learning that clean-energy initiatives carry risks of their own beyond sapping the economy, as suggested by this front-page headline in the Post on Wednesday: "The Deadly Silence of the Electric Car." The American Federation of the Blind and others fear that noiseless electric cars will clip the unsuspecting -- one more tricky new problem for Chu and company to solve as they engineer a "cultural shift" in America.