When perverseness becomes the governing principle

The narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Black Cat” attributes his cruelty and brutality to something he calls perverseness—the absence or removal of all goodness from his nature. He confesses this fact as he awaits his own execution, leaving it up to the reader to decide if his self-analysis is genuine. (Most cats, historically, have agreed.)

I thought of that sadistic narrator when I read of Trump’s insistence on dismantling every facet and minute detail of Barack Obama’s climate change legacy. Trump, of course, is reserving judgment on climate change—having just come around to gravity and long division. His reluctance to accept the obvious means more coal for you and me and a rationale from the irrational president that coal will make us energy independent. It’s a lie: we don’t import coal; we dig it ourselves.

We could import it, from China maybe, a country that produces four-times the amount of coal that we do. But we don’t need it. Not now. Not ever.

Which leads to another point: Trump campaigned in coal country on the promise that he would regenerate America’s dependence on coal. But natural gas is cleaner and cheaper and anyone given the option will choose that alternative. (I’m pretty sure that neither Trump Tower nor Mar-a-Lago has its own emergency coal-burning power plant.) What’s more, Trump’s weakening of environmental restrictions will allow coal mines to operate well into this century—except—(point two) men don’t mine coal anymore. Machines do the work. There won’t be a rush for coal jobs in West Virginia anytime soon, other than for the mechanics and technicians needed to maintain the automation that has already killed most of the mining jobs.


In the end there’s no energy independence, no increased demand (rather the opposite), and no policies to clean up the mess left behind. It’s just doing the wrong thing because you can, and it’s as crazy as spending a bleak December chatting with a large black bird, or interring a rival behind a brick wall to avenge past offenses.

(I guess Poe had that wall thing down too.)

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