Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Republican Mistake

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We don’t always find ourselves agreeing with Thomas Friedman at the NYT, but that’s the job of a columnist, isn’t it? – sometimes he’s on the ball, sometimes not; after all, we’re always on the ball, right?

But we did agree with this:

Anyone who looks at the growth of middle classes around the world and their rising demands for natural resources, plus the dangers of climate change driven by our addiction to fossil fuels, can see that clean renewable energy — wind, solar, nuclear and stuff we haven’t yet invented — is going to be the next great global industry. It has to be if we are going to grow in a stable way.

His subject is the Republican Party’s use of offshore drilling as an answer to all energy woes. The reason the party does this is because it works in the polls, but it risks replacing a relatively important subject – how do we move our energy policy forward? – with a relatively petty one – how do we make voters think gas prices can be lowered?

One thing we know, offshore drilling isn’t it – not in the short term, as even the Republicans acknowledge, likely not in the long term. After all, in the long term, the importance of petroleum will most likely recede. (Let’s see how the Prius does before using definite articles.)

But Friedman does overstate a bit – a reason he’s not our favorite columnist; he overstates a lot. The Republicans and Democrats are both stressing messages that can fit a 30-second TV ad, and, admittedly, gasoline sticker shock fills the bill. McCain does aim for a broader energy portfolio withal, and neither party bases their energy policy on a single element. In campaign ads, however, all is Panglossian utopia if you vote for me, Lovecraftian nightmare if you vote for the demonic other.

Just to be fair, Friedman also dings the Democrats for stressing Afghanistan as a “good” war, but that falls outside our brief. You can read the whole thing for the full pox-on-all-houses flavor of his piece.

Picture of Friedman. He does look a bit like he’s campaigning – big finger point there – but for what? Next captain of a starship?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, the problem is that any of the long-term solutions will take time to implement. We can't realistically move from coal to nuclear and solar, nor from petroleum-based transportation to electric, in anything under decades. In the mean time, we'll need more sources of oil and natural gas. Moreover, even if conservation efforts are wildly successful, doesn't it make sense to keep our oil dollars at home rather than run up our already-huge trade deficit?