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Odd, isn't it? Natural gas, seen as a solution there but under attack here, where it's said to be much dirtier both outdoors, because of its greenhouse-gas potency, and indoors, because of the particulates it generates, severely degrading indoor air quality. (If you have asthma or other lung/breathing issues, you should seriously reconsider using natural gas indoors). And, like other fossil-fuels, natural-gas at best represents short-term thinking: According to one estimate, the earth has a 52-year supply of natural gas remaining.

Whichever side of this divide we lean toward, I question whether EU decisions are the best models for our own; EU legislators are as human as ours. The single biggest problem with the global-warming debate (beyond “Why is there a debate?”) is its politicization, its devolvement into rigid, all-or-nothing, my-way-or-the-highway thinking, a rigidity seeping from both sides of the debate. The fact that there even are two sides is both symptom and pathology: the reductionism deriving from the posing of complex issues as either/or precludes genuinely useful solutions. In the case of natural gas, the two positions are “natural gas bad, therefore ban it,” and “natural gas good, therefore promote it.”

Weighing either/ors is a never-ending PITA, for all of us, not just politicians; but especially for politicians, whose anxiety-prone constituencies demand instant relief from stress, mis-posing a complex problem as either/or makes their lives much easier, plus it allows for the arbitrary cut-off of mind-numbing, chart-strewn, self-interest-inflected debates. Who needs cloture when you can simply mis-state a problem? (But, we sputter, isn't that their job? Isn't that what they signed up for? Isn't that why they get the big bucks, generous pensions, free health care, and free haircuts? 

With human-manipulated energy sources, discussions are not, or shouldn't be, cases of yes-or-no; are, or should be, cases of cost vs. benefit, examinations of what-works-right-now-but-is-subject-to-reconsideration. These decisions are better made using nuanced, rather than oafish, thinking. Although during debates about global-warming, arguing nuances of energy policy produces vast volumes of hot air.

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Either-or approaches are a natural Prozac; they assuage the anxiety engendered by complex problems that have no obvious solutions; and they make it much easier to think lazily; we can blithely—in some cases cynically—ignore the reality that not only natural gas, but also every other human-manipulated energy source has costs and benefits.

Regardless of the subject, politically-driven reductionism both deprives us of benefits and denies their costs. Tell the truth: Isn't nuclear looking a little better right now?