A Price Worth Paying?

A long long time ago I got a degree in Foreign Affairs.  I had a passion for geopolitics and intended to spend my life in the military or as a foreign service officer.  I was, at least when I started college, a Cold Warrior.  That all seems bizarre to me now, life having led me down a much different path and taught me lessons that render foolish that way of thinking.

I still generally follow the news and some of the journals, but I no longer see the world as some sort of chessboard.  Now I prefer to think of political borders as the imaginary lines they are and I look forward to the day they are found only in history books.

So I didn’t allow myself to get worked up over Russia’s tiff with the Ukraine, for example.  And I’m not interested in whether or how the chief of our tribe “stands up to” the chief of the other tribe.  I don’t worry about whether or how “our” chess pieces should be moved in reaction to how the Red chess pieces are supposedly moving.  I’ll leave that to the folks who got their degrees and stayed on course.

But it does bother me that while sometimes sabers are merely rattled, other times they’re drawn and slashed through the lives of real people.  There are lots of ways we all are required to pay the price for our violence.

Last week I read THIS PIECE in the New York Times, titled “Weaning Europe from Russian Gas.”  The article notes that 30% of the gas consumed in the European Union comes from Russia.  14% of Russia’s export earnings are from that gas.  50% of that gas goes through pipelines that cross the Ukraine.

Because the European supply of gas is put at risk if it imposes sanctions on Russia, the author suggests buying coal from the U.S. (which is “cheap” he says) to replace Russian gas.  “Given the imperative to stand up to Russia,” he writes, “the European Union should delay, but not scrap, rules for phasing out dirty coal-fired power stations.”  The cost to the environment, he says, “is one worth paying.”  Likewise he argues that Germany should “should abandon their knee-jerk aversion to nuclear energy,”  despite having noted earlier in the piece that liquefied natural gas from Qatar is now too expensive for the E.U. because so much of it is being purchased by Japan to replace the energy lost with the tidal wave destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

But I wonder how the author and “analysts” like him are able to so easily tabulate the costs and declare them to be “worth paying.”

If these kinds of recommendations are accepted, then “the imperative to stand up to Russia” will come at a cost to the environment.  If Nature had a vote in the matter, she might disagree with the author’s conclusion that the price is “worth paying.”