If Keystone XL is the Kim Kardashian of energy, what is Taylor Swift? Obviously Miss Swift is natural gas.
Media and music darling, Taylor Swift (aka T-Swift) has spent the last few years cultivating the perfect image: “The patriarchy-friendly, virginal, good, pure, feminine, pretty blonde girl that has been an American ideal for decades,” says Jezebel writer, Dodai Stewart. Tweens love having someone they can “relate to” and mothers love having a squeaky clean role model for their daughters. As she’s made her meteoric rise from country darling to bona fide pop star, T-Swift has been embroiled in the feminist struggle for the ages: the virgin-whore dichotomy.
Most of her songs are dedicated to pining over men who don’t love her, hating on the women they do love, or feeling like an outsider because she wears glasses sometimes (at least in her videos). Rather than pushing the envelope in terms of female success and sexuality, she perpetuates the patriarchal system of pretty, quiet women. The parody Twitter account FeministTaylorSwift is a reminder that T-Swift is not a beacon of hope for gender equality, but a palliative pill for patriarchy.
Similarly, natural gas has been making waves in the energy sector as the hip new fuel revolutionizing the nation. Not only is it giving a huge boost to the economy, it’s clean! — Supposedly. Gas-enthusiasts are right that natural gas or methane burns with fewer emissions than its common alternative, coal. However, methane is still a hydrocarbon and a dangerous greenhouse gas in its own respect. A recent article by the Christian Science Monitor reports that if natural gas leaks are more 3% of total output, greenhouse gas emissions will rise overall, eliminating climate benefits versus coal. Just as Taylor Swift’s brand of innocence and perfection perpetuates patriarchy and female docility, promoting natural gas as our best hope for a clean energy future perpetuates our subjection to fossil fuels.
So if natural gas won’t ease environmental sensibilities just as T-Swift fails to allay feminist fears, what or who can we turn to? Enter pop music dream girl: Kelly Clarkson. As the original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson came from humble roots and achieved stardom after being backed by a powerful industry scheme. The American Idol machine has certainly produced some other forgettable winners. (Seriously, whatever happened to Ruben Studdard? Apparently he’s going to be on the next season of The Biggest Loser, and not even the celebrity edition.)
However, Clarkson has had the staying power to remain relevant in the pop world, long after her terrible feature film, From Justin to Kelly (which currently has a 1.9/10 on IMDB). Not only has Clarkson got serious singing chops, but she remains a positive role model for young girls as she fights the against autotune and body image comments. An article from the New York Times compared her repertoire as “on par with Taylor Swift when it comes to vengeance” while another says she is “a role model without even trying.”
Clarkson’s energy counterpart is solar energy, specifically solar photovoltaic cells (PV cells). Like Clarkson, solar has gotten a major boost thanks to financial backing from governments. It’s true that the push hasn’t been industry-driven, but I don’t think government-funded pop stars will be around anytime soon so this is the nearest equivalent. Though the Solyndra scandal has somewhat marred federal loans and solar energy for America, in China and Germany the solar industry is hugely successful. Last May, there was a particularly sunny day where Germany managed to produce about half of the world’s total energy (22 gigawatts).
Solar energy, rather than natural gas, should mark the path to an emission-free energy future. Though solar energy has somewhat of a “dark side“ associated with pollution from producing the conductive material of PV cells, it is completely clean as it produces electricity.
It is also getting cheaper and more efficient than ever believed possible. Solar energy could help nations such as America become energy independent and could even bring electricity to poor African nations (many of which happen to be very sunny). As President Obama tours Africa, he has promised American investment in expanding electrical availability across Africa. Rather than investing in fossil-based fuel that dead-ends with higher global temperatures which would increases droughts and famines, we need to continue the trend towards a real and sustainable energy future.