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July 03, 2005

Feingold Fundraiser Iraq  Peak Oil  Politics

Kent (Gumpa) and Kathy (Mrs. Gumpa) took me with them yesterday to a backyard gathering/fundraiser for Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold up here in Ashland WI, where I'm visiting. There were maybe 75 people there, so everybody got a chance to meet Russ (if I can call him "Russ") and chat with him for a few minutes. He also made some remarks that lasted 20 minutes or so. It was all very informal and casual, your basic Fourth of July backyard get-together, but with a Senator.

Russ Feingold
More photos© Kent Tenney 

Feingold is a great public servant, a man of impeccable honesty and integrity, dedicated to doing what's right, not just what's politically expedient or beneficial to his campaign contributors. In his Senate campaigns, he refuses soft money contributions because he sees them as corrosive to democracy. It's one thing to criticize soft money; it's another to refuse to accept it even when your opponent is accepting it with both hands. But that's Russ. There's talk of Feingold's running for President, possibly even in 2008, and he would certainly have my whole-hearted support.

In his remarks, Feingold talked about Sandra Day O'Connor's announced retirement and about the challenges facing Democrats, but mostly he talked about Iraq. He called the administration's misleading the Congress and the public into going to war one of the most dishonest acts by a government in our nation's history. He talked about a trip he took to Iraq with Senators Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. He said that what they saw was that the situation on the ground in Iraq is bad and getting worse. He also joked that it was fascinating having breakfast each day with McCain and Clinton, watching them size each other up as they prepare for their Presidential runs in 2008.

What I mostly wanted to write about, though, is this. In the few minutes I had personally to talk to Feingold, I tried to give him a capsule summary of the Peak Oil story: that world energy production is on track to fall short of world demand in the very near future; that the gap between supply and demand will mean rapidly rising prices with severe economic consequences; that oil production will soon peak and begin its inexorable, irreversible, and permanent decline; that the CEO of Exxon had just announced that natural gas production in North America has already peaked. I said that these are big problems that are not being addressed.

Feingold's response was illuminating and somewhat disheartening. He said that three years ago, before the war, the NYT's Thomas Friedman, a supporter of the war, had said that three years hence one would know if the war had succeeded by looking at the price of oil. If it was $6 a barrel, the war would have been a success. If it was $60 a barrel, the war would have been a failure. Here, three years later, oil is indeed $60 a barrel. He said also that it's a problem that India and China are buying up so much oil, and said something about Venezuela being a problem. He finished by saying we need to increase our independence from foreign oil.

In other words, he sees our problems with energy as political, not geological. Peak oil, the idea that permanently declining oil and gas production is just over the horizon, does not seem to be anywhere on his radar screen. This from one of the smartest and most progressive members of the Senate. And it was clear from other things Feingold said that he, like everyone in politics, has a relatively short-term focus. A lot of his focus is on 2006 and 2008. That kind of short-term focus is understandable; it's built into the system. Unfortunately, given the deep, fundamental, tectonic shifts that are underway, a purely short-term focus invites disaster.

I wanted to tell him as well about the new research that suggests global warming may be far more drastic than even the worst-case scenarios have suggested heretofore. And I wanted to point out that when people wake up to the reality of peak oil and global warming, they are going to be very, very angry that their leadership has failed them so disastrously. They are going to look around for a person who has been telling them the truth about these issues all along. I was going to suggest that Feingold make himself that person.

Maybe next time.

Posted by Jonathan at July 3, 2005 03:20 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


Good use of your time.

You should send him the data and the studies. I'm sure he meets lots of people on the stump. It is probably best to stick to message. If enough people write and push the issue, it may raise on his radar. The other thing is to go to his Listening Sessions.

If you go to his ideas section on his web site there is an energy policy survey he is doing. He is specifically looking at true renewables (http://feingold.senate.gov/forums_index.html).

You can email Russ @ http://feingold.senate.gov/contact.html.

Posted by: mark at July 5, 2005 11:08 AM

Who's the old grey haired guy with Russ? He sure looks like he past his peak. :-)

Posted by: Charyn at July 7, 2005 09:17 PM