Requiem for a Debit Card.

23 06 2008

I’m grumpy. Even though Sarah Palin’s new proposal would put $1200 in my pocket to help with fuel costs. I have to admit…I wanted the debit card. That was the original proposal. We each got a glittering free-fuel debit card to spend at the pump, or to pay our home heating bill, or anything related to energy usage. It would get charged up each month, and occupy a special little slot in our wallets. It was a thing to have and hold, it was a gift card to the energy store that kept on giving…it was plastique! But, alas, it is not to be.

Now, we will probably just get a check in the mail and that’s that. We can buy a recliner, a microwave, a big screen TV, a life-time supply of Doritos….whatever we want. There’s something about that that just feels wrong. It feels like charity. It feels like a handout. It feels abstract. It feels like when Bush told us after 9/11 to “go shopping”. The debit card, on the other hand, was relevant. It would have reminded us where it came from and what it was for. And while I could probably survive without anything, it reminded me that folks in rural Alaska whose heating costs are 5 times more than mine would be using this to actually keep warm. And it would be a visual reminder to conserve.

The cash handout simply sends the message, “Spend me. Consume. Don’t think. Drown your sorrows with a big screen TV. Have a Dorito.”

Now, in the big picture, none of this is going to have much effect. We absolutely need to get the noose that is ‘big oil’ off our necks and start thinking about alternative energy sources. With more tidal power than anywhere in the country, geothermal literally erupting all around us, wind potential that is incalculable, and constant solar for months out of every year, THIS is where our efforts need to be. But that’s not going to help the really needy who, in a few months are going to see their home heating costs go through the roof, and have to make decisions about what to give up so their family can be warm.

And once again, no one knows what to make of our governor’s latest proposal. Cries of “Socialist!” are heard ringing down the conservative halls of the legislature. Environmentalists are screaming that the bill encourages consumption instead of long-term solutions. Most people are just chanting, “Show me the money!” And once again, we search for the middle ground.




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