Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Re-Defining The Energy Debate

Finally. A Tom Friedman op ed that needs no rebuttal. Right on, Tommy:

A New Grip on 'Reality'
By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
One of the most important laws of political debate is this: To name something is to own it. If you can name something, get that name to stick and therefore define how people think about an issue, your opponents don't stand a chance. One of the most pernicious things that Vice President Dick Cheney and Big Oil have done for years is to define "realism" when it comes to U.S. energy policy — and therefore they have owned the debate.

If you listen to them, they always offer this patronizing, pat-you-on-the-head view about alternative energy — hybrids, wind, solar, ethanol — which goes like this: "Yes, yes, those are all very cute and virtuous, but not realistic. Real men know that oil and fossil fuels are going to dominate our energy usage for a long time, so get used to it."

Well, here's what's encouraging today. There is a split emerging among conservatives on this issue. Not all conservatives are in the pocket of Big Oil. Many evangelicals, led by people like Gary Bauer, are going green — both because they believe that we need to be better stewards of God's green earth and because they don't like being dependent for energy on countries that nurse a deep hostility toward the United States.

One of the best speeches I've ever read about the necessity of breaking America's oil addiction now, and redefining "realism," was delivered by Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the Brookings Institution on March 13. Drop what you are doing and read it at

Mr. Lugar states: "Vice President Cheney, who oversaw Bush administration energy policy, stated on April 30, 2001, ... 'Years down the road, alternative fuels may become a great deal more plentiful than they are today. But we are not yet in any position to stake our economy and our way of life on that possibility. For now, we must take the facts as they are. Whatever our hopes for developing alternative sources and for conserving energy — and that's part of our plan — the reality is that fossil fuels provide virtually 100 percent of our transportation needs and an overwhelming share of our electricity requirements. For years down the road, this will continue to be true.' "

Mr. Lugar then says: "For decades, the energy debate in this country has pitted so-called pro-oil realists against idealistic advocates of alternative energy. The pro-oil commentators have attempted to discredit alternatives by saying they make up a tiny share of energy consumed and that dependence on oil is a choice of the marketplace.

"They assert that our government can and should do little to change this. They have implied that those who have bemoaned oil dependency do not understand that every energy alternative comes with its own problems and limitations."

While acknowledging that the oil alternatives still require a huge amount of work in order to achieve the necessary scale, Mr. Lugar insists that with a big strategic push we can, and must, get there: "My message is that the balance of realism has passed from those who argue on behalf of oil and a laissez-faire energy policy that relies on market evolution, to those who recognize that in the absence of a major reorientation in the way we get our energy, life in America is going to be much more difficult in the coming decades. ... No one who is honestly assessing the decline of American leverage around the world due to our energy dependence can fail to see that energy is the albatross of U.S. national security.

"We have entered a different energy era that requires a much different response than in past decades. What is needed is an urgent national campaign led by a succession of presidents and Congresses who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem."

Dick Cheney regularly dismisses liberals for having a "pre-9/11" mind-set, as opposed to tough guys like him, who have a "post-9/11" mind-set. Hogwash! When it comes to energy, there is no one more pre-9/11, no one more stuck in keeping America addicted to foreign oil, than Dick Cheney.

A deep pessimist, Mr. Cheney has an utterly impoverished view of what American technologists can do when asked to do the impossible and an utterly impoverished view of what the American people would do — post-9/11 — if summoned to the great national cause of energy independence.

While I would push for even tougher steps than Mr. Lugar, I draw great hope from seeing that smart conservatives like him are no longer willing to let Dick Cheney and Big Oil tell them what is "realistic" when it comes to America's energy future.

Photo credit: Thomas L. Friedman (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)



JasonSpalding said...

I could fill up my tank today. That’s a good thing. Could you imagine if people couldn't fill their tank? I live in Michigan as you know we here in Michigan build cars. Here in Flint where I live we make gas guzzlers in the form of BIG TRUCKS BUSES and SUVs. If people couldn't get enough gas people here would lose jobs. If they lost their job then the cascade effect kicks in. I guess at some point I wouldn't be able to sit my ass here reading your whining commentary and pay my taxes. So I guess all things are relatively good. I wish our soldiers didn't have to die to support our life styles but they do. So why don't you quit bitching about it and just say thank you!

The Unknown Candidate said...

Jason, the war in Iraq was, although we were told otherwise, about oil and lucrative contracts for companies like Halliburton. But the war made things worse--there is less oil coming out of Iraq three years after the war than prior to it. The Iraq war was fought under false pretenses, better known as lies (remember those non-existent WMD's?) Thank them? Are you nuts?

What Tom Friedman (no liberal, by a long shot) is saying is that the administration isn't willing to admit that oil cannot be the dominant energy source for the world indefinitely. There just isn't enough oil--period. He's also saying that it's not good for the U.S. security to be dependent on oil-rich producers like Saudi Arabia and other, more hostile Arab nations. They don't like us very much--to put it mildly.

After 5 or so years of BushCo, you obviously need a reality check.

The auto manufacturers have not been given government incentives to develop vehicles that run on cleaner, more abundant alternatives. So they continue--for the most part--to produce and agressively market gas guzzlers. In the meantime, wealthy Americans are encouraged to buy expensive, huge gas guzzling vehicles in return for a five-figure tax break. See anything wrong with this picture?

BushCo policy is the problem. Their goals are to line the pockets of their elitist buddies--at the expense of the rest of us. They have no meaningful energy policy. They should be giving tax incentives to the auto companies and energy companies to develop better alternatives. They're not. They should be controlling the price-gouging of the big oil companies. They're not.

Maybe you didn't read the news about GM layoffs? What do you think is making the auto companies so vulnerable? Their own failures to be proactive and keep up with the Toyotas and the Hondas of the world, yes. But, importantly, it is the government's failure to create a policy encouraging companies to produce products that will be assure their future business viability.

By the way, if you're so in favor of this war, why don't you go down to the nearest recruitment office and volunteer. They aren't getting too many takers these days. Gee. I wonder why.