Democrats and Energy Policy
Engineer and blogger Robert Rapier takes on the naivety of many of the more (self declared or assigned) liberal pundits and electorate:
The Democratic Disconnect
As I read Little’s book [Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair with Energy], I kept coming back to the question “Why is is that so many Democrats seem to be so disconnected from the role energy plays in our lives?” And I ask that question as someone whose political views generally fall on the Democratic side of the spectrum. […]
Without getting into detailed position statements on universal health care, abortion rights, Creationism in schools, environmental protection, etc. – let me just say that my political views are left of center (but not too far left). I would describe myself as “mostly” a Democrat. But my views on energy are completely at odds with the mainstream views of the Democratic party.
The reason for this is that I believe the left – and especially the far left – is disconnected and naive when it comes to energy. They display the kind of thinking Amanda Little displayed before her epiphany. For example, I love the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I think Jon is incredibly insightful and intelligent. But when Jon wades into energy discussions, he often ends up spreading the kind of misinformation that leads to liberal naivety on energy issues. The view always seems to be that the oil companies are the enemy of the people, even though they depend on oil for so many modern conveniences.
I suspect that a good deal of the anger at oil companies (wrt gasoline and product prices and company profits) is displaced - people are just frustrated with their lives and want to take it out on somebody. There are legitimate reasons to be angry at any given oil company - e.g., when a company spills their product on your land, or funds anti-science disinformation campaigns to affect national or local politics. However, in my opinion being angry at oil companies because they are profitable or that gasoline is $4/gal is irrational.
Mr. Rapier goes on:
President Obama’s Flip-Flops
The disconnect in the Democratic party extends right to the top. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama preached on the dangers of our fossil fuel dependence. I felt at the time many of his ideas were those of an idealistic Democratic candidate with yet another distorted view of the oil industry. Once he was in office, he started to make decisions indicative of someone coming to grips with the reality of our energy consumption. But he has been extremely indecisive. Apparently realizing that renewable energy won’t be replacing oil any time soon, he first came to the conclusion that we need more domestic production. Following the BP spill, he decided we needed a moratorium. Now we are back to needing rapid domestic development. He wants to end incentives for domestic oil production, and then almost immediately says we need more incentives for oil production.
Here is the dilemma he faces. Candidate Obama can rail against the oil companies all he wants to score cheap political points. President Obama may continue to rail against the oil companies for political benefit, but privately he knows that marginalizing domestic oil companies does nothing to lessen our dependence on oil. It simply increases our dependence on imported oil and weakens the country. In a tight supply/demand environment, incremental supplies could make a big price impact, and to the extent that those supplies are domestic that money circulates within the U.S. economy. If he fails to work to develop domestic supplies, people will point fingers at him and blame him for driving up gas prices (which they are already doing).
Indeed, the President has discovered that he’s being squeezed by all sides of this issue, and whatever he does will be lamented strongly and loudly by some and this will lead to political moves against him. It’s a no-win situation for any President.
Recommend reading all of Mr. Rapier’s column. He’s a strong advocate for alternative energy sources (a field in which he works) and conservation but also has a level headed view of our energy use and our dependency on oil, a dependency that cannot and will not be broken easily.