Titan in natural color, Cassini spacecraft, April 16, 2005. (Source/http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06230) - In public domain.
With the passage of the debt ceiling/budget cuts deal that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called a “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” on Monday, it became clear that conservative politicians are only patriotic when they can make money off of misery. We know that the conservative/reactionary/Tea Party agenda is to ensure that the legacy of the New Deal and liberal America is as charred as the dinosaurs were 65 million years ago. And with it, our futures and the future of kids like my eight-year-old son.
But how will we get to a future with no future, you ask? How will this capitulation — oops, I mean compromise — between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lead us into the event horizon of a black hole? It will be because the reactionary Republicans and the diffident Democrats will make one big effort to save the US and world economy, to create jobs and wealth. All while breaking treaties, threatening world peace and destroying the environment in the process.
Forget about “drill, baby, drill” and the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) issue. Think bigger. Think fictitiously big. Think Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. It’s not only the second largest moon in the solar system (after Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede), and double the size of Earth’s moon. It’s the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere, about ten times as dense as our own. It also has a huge reservoir of organic molecules and hydrocarbons in its atmosphere, and liquid methane and ethane all over its surface, at least as verified via the Cassini spacecraft and its unmanned fly-bys since 2004. Some scientists believe that there’s enough liquid methane and other hydrocarbons under and on the surface and in the atmosphere to power the current world economy for the next fifty million years.
Because many of our fearless conservative leaders don’t believe in global warming/climate change — but do believe in making money — they would see the recent discovery of the stuff on Titan not as a place to explore the possibility of life. Instead, it would be a grand opportunity to solve the world’s energy crisis. Of course, they’d have to admit that there is such a thing as peak oil, and then have ample evidence that the world has reached peak production to boot.
So, say it’s 2014, and everyone from OPEC to the UN to Exxon Mobil has reported that we’ve reached the outer edge of peak oil. If the neo-con/Tea Party types are still in control of the House of Representatives, or worse, in control of the Senate and the White House, there wouldn’t even be a debate. They’d put together a bill to push through a $100 billion package for NASA to work with Exxon Mobil, Shell and Halliburton in sending a team of scientists, petrochemical engineers and drillers to figure out how to pump Titan’s frigid air and hydrocarbon lakes into massive tanks to return to Earth for our consumption. The companies would have to match the $100 billion package dollar for dollar, which they would do, of course.
If Obama’s in his second term with a divided government, though there would be more protests from environmental groups, climatologists, and grassroots organizations than even with a President Mitt Romney, it wouldn’t matter. With the promise of as many as five million new jobs in three years, and 150,000 jobs to support the Titan “Oil” Pumping mission within the first six months, the majority of anxious Americans would endorse this plan.
Obama would talk about “honoring America’s commitments” to space as exploration. He’d complain about the need to protect the Earth from even more disastrous and accelerated climate change, not to mention the wasting of financial and scientific resources that could leave Titan a moon-sized example of an EPA Superfund site if the mission somehow set the moon’s atmosphere on fire. Obama would even bring up green alternatives for using the Sun and solar system to supply the world’s energy needs. Then he’d fold like a warped desk of cards.
This would violate the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom in 1967, and by half of the countries of the world in the forty-four years since. Not only are we not suppose to have nuclear weapons in space, the more immediate intent of the treaty, but we’re also prohibited from claiming any part of outer space as an individual nation, as they are the “common heritage of mankind.” The act to drain Titan as a petrochemical resource unilaterally would break the treaty, and leave other space-faring nations into a new and potentially dangerous space race.
So, whether Obama or a semi-fictitious Republican president, the world would compromise with the US government, allowing this cockamamie scheme to move forward without the threat of war if they could receive a twenty-five percent share in whatever hydrocarbons are recovered from Titan. In exchange, a new treaty is signed promising a thirty percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption by 2040, made up for by a twenty percent increase in green energy over the same quarter-century.
All a great idea. The ultimate Satan sandwich, because if such a mission to Titan succeeds, the new Kyoto Accords wouldn’t mean a damn thing. We’ll be burning methane until we all have to buy oxygen tanks in order to breathe.
Though this is a fictitious scenario, it’s based on a reality that has been unfolding in our country for decades. The unfortunate truth is, between the lustful servants of money and corporations and capitulating national leadership, this Satan-sandwich-story is more of a possibility than us seeing a human being walk on Mars. At least in my lifetime.