Friday, September 19, 2008

Energy and the Candidates

Before there was a financial crisis, there was an energy crisis. It was essential that candidates pour forth ideas on energy, because to not have an energy "plan" meant you "didn't care."

And, as we know, there's nothing worse than a candidate who doesn't care.

Unfortunately, according to one analysis, the candidates put more work into producing plans than the thought in them. The American magazine lambasts both for producing ideas that are "inconsistent with economic reality" to put it nicely.

Among the "Worst Energy Ideas of 2008" according to The American are:

1. Energy Independence - the notion that we should strive to end any foreign trade when it comes to energy (because to trade means you are dependent on your trading partner).

2. Use It or Lose It - the notion that energy / oil companies should waste their resources drilling on current leases where they don't think there's a lot of oil and gas before asking for leases on the properties where they DO believe it to be.

3. Disguised Subsidies - called "market based payments," we're still talking about spending tens of billions of dollars to subsidize technologies that aren't commercially feasible despite the high costs of energy.

4. Green jobs - this sounds nice, but in operation is "a laundry list of new ways the government can give money to various constituents. It attempts to fix multiple problems at once, but would likely fix very little."

This article is a shorter version of a think piece put out by The American's publisher, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). A more complete analysis is here. The bottom line on both candidates' position is labeled, unfortunately, "Incoherent At Best."

Perhaps the most interesting part of that paper isn't its look at the various policies offered by the candidates and how they contradict themselves, but rather how they came to do it:
While both candidates showed signs of having coherent energy policies at the beginning of their campaigns, the pandering as Election Day nears has produced incoherent platforms that signify a deep lack of seriousness.
In short, they started making sense, but political "realities" (or the perception thereof) caused them to change course, offering ideas that made little sense in light of their previous positions. At the end of the political season, then, here's where we are:
If there is a dominant pattern in the energy platforms of the Obama and McCain campaigns, it is one of profound lack of serious thought, rampant confusion, and transparent pandering. Each candidate now has a fistful of mutually contradictory goals: reducing GHG emissions while expanding fossil fuel production, opposing subsidies except when they are supporting subsidies, embracing energy sources they caveat to death, and wanting to reduce energy use while lowering prices.
Recall Senator Obama once talked about renegotiating NAFTA, only to retreat, blaming his earlier statement on the heat of the campaign. When our system of electing leaders causes them to move from sensible positions to insensible positions, something is seriously broken.

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