"Conscience without politics is only masochism."

Frankly, he should feel like shit for what he’s doing, and so should you and I, for what we’re doing. And then, once we’ve spent a three-day weekend of the soul considering the enormity we’re involved in, we should set aside our precious consciences. Conscience without politics is only masochism. Yet knowledge without conscience—that’s nihilism. And all of us know perfectly well that our fossil-fueled civilization isn’t built to last; we also know that we need to effect a deliberate and graceful transition to another energy regime or suffer a chaotic and violent interregnum. The ignorant as well as the informed know this. The honest scientist knows, and the ostensibly self-deceived denialist knows. The finance guy knows, and the laid-off event planner, and the football coach, and the anarchist. Democrat and Republican know. Even the particular idiots known as swing-voters know. You could write a Walt Whitman-style poem about this obvious thing that everybody knows.

Fundamentally we have three possible attitudes toward hydrocarbons: masochism (“I feel bad about myself”), nihilism (“Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em”), or politics. Because there is always a third choice, even if usually you’re offered just two: Coal or natural gas? The environment or the economy? Thomas Malthus or Willy Wonka? You can choose, or you can shrug: the results are the same. Because two choices is no choice. The point of a third choice—the point of any energy politics worthy of the name—would be to have a choice at all.

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