What national issue has a greater convergence of conundrums than energy?
The breadth is immense – geographic, scientific, economic, environmental. And each component is fiendishly enmeshed with others, so that if you focus on just one, others are inevitably and immediately affected. Among the hot buttons:
- climate science
- world economy and geopolitics
- national energy independence
- foreign policy
- healthy indoor and outdoor environments
- DOE loans to develop new energy technology
- energy-related taxes, deductions, and credits
- federal subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries
- smart technology and the smart grid.
A presidential election should be an occasion for fresh strategies and new vision, but I saw none of that. We heard about the Keystone pipeline but mostly in reference to short-term fixes rather than long-term national goals for fossil fuels. We heard about the failure of Solyndra, but much of that discussion was loaded and irresponsible, and it belied the larger need to develop new technology. We heard about energy independence, another critical issue, but the discussion about foreign oil was divorced from our oil addiction. That discussion was also disconnected from energy leadership. I can’t imagine the U.S. without a worldwide leadership role in an industry as critical as energy – nor the automotive industry, for that matter. Are we willing to give that energy role up to countries like China and India, where governments are supporting and subsidizing new technology and products?
To connect so many dots is a wrenching challenge no matter what attitudes or ideologies one brings to it. Nevertheless, we need champions of a broader discussion, not partisans and lobbyists for one fuel source or one energy issue over all others. We need a national energy policy, and politicians from all sides working together to achieve it. We need big picture thinking.
Now that the election has passed, will someone start an intelligent debate?