Written by Michelle Haimoff
Photo: HTB, Creative Commons, Flickr
Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day?
Bill Murray has to relive one day of his life repeatedly until he gets it right. Everyday he wakes up to the same song, he trips over the same curb and he has to give the same report about a groundhog.
This is what Thomas L. Friedman's life must be like. Practically every week he writes about the economic and environmental importance of getting off of oil. Clearly he is writing, not for regular New York Times readers, but for those who almost never pick up the Times, who are staying at their friend's summer house over the weekend and randomly decide to flip through the Week in Review instead of say, the Sports or Style section. He is writing for the disinterested American who wouldn't necessarily give Bush a good approval rating, but maybe not a bad one either, who might start to understand through the uncharacteristic and fortuitous gesture of skimming the Opinion page, the severity of the energy crisis.
How he musters the avuncular patience to explain the same idea over and over with little relevant titles like 9/11 and 4/11 instead of: Seriously, You Really Don't Get This Yet? and an article that simply says "Oil is bad" hundreds of times a la "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" eludes me.
However, his insistence on refraining from obscenities or flipping out entirely leads him to be creative in the paraphrasing of his message. This week he frames oil dependence as addiction to crack cocaine rather than as a price of gasoline problem:
He may as well say, "It's like CRACK, ok? And crack is just about the WORST drug you can take. Can you understand that analogy? Can you understand that crack is bad?? So all I'm saying is we, as a country, need to stop doing CRACK."
When a person is addicted to crack cocaine, his problem is not that the price of crack is going up. His problem is what that crack addiction is doing to his whole body. The cure is not cheaper crack, which would only perpetuate the addiction and all the problems it is creating. The cure is to break the addiction.
Ditto for us. Our cure is not cheaper gasoline, but a clean energy system. And the key to building that is to keep the price of gasoline and coal — our crack — higher, not lower, so consumers are moved to break their addiction to these dirty fuels and inventors are moved to create clean alternatives.
At one point in Groundhog Day Bill Murray tries to electrocute himself by dropping a toaster in his bathtub, but he just wakes up to the same song on the radio . . .
Disclosure: I think Bill Murray is one of the greatest actors of our time and that Rushmore is the greatest movie of all time. He was also robbed of an Oscar for Lost in Translation, as far as I'm concerned. Incidentally and somewhat ironically, Groundhog Day is funnier the second time you see it.