Friday, August 20, 2004

oil and presidential denial

David ignatius at the washington post has a fine column this morning noting that the recent upturn in oil prices is very real and more importantly, portends to be a long-term adjustment. Varying levels of instability in the major oil regions shows no signs of abating, particularly in the middle east and central asia. Production is likely to be peaking, and demand from the developing world is skyrocketing. But neither Kerry nor Bush has anything meaningful to say about oil. As Ignatius notes:

The non-debate over energy illustrates what's depressing about this campaign. The country is in serious trouble -- with record-high oil prices and the threat of a new energy crisis just one example of our global problems. But rather than the serious debate the country needs, we're hearing platitudes. George Bush and John Kerry evidently would rather play it safe and avoid politically controversial proposals, which in today's world is downright dangerous.

It’s a valid observation; unfortunately it ignores the political reality that Americans are stunningly unaware of the realities of our energy future. If anything, Iraq has been the first glimmer of understanding in the general public that our foreign policy is enormously beholden to an ongoing oil obsession. Talking honestly to the public about oil, during an election campaign, is near-suicide. And given Kerrys impeccable credentials with the environmental community, he hardly needs to concern himself with tossing them bones.

One note, however – Ignatius quickly dismisses the candidates energy plans as being quite similar. Without even mentioning the distinct differences in their campaign-oriented ‘plans’, there is little question that the candidates respective energy policies in office would be radically different. Bush’s record is a monument to a philosophy of unrestrained oil consumption, resource depletion, and utter neglect of intelligent short and long term efficiency (CAFÉ standards) or renewable energy efforts. Kerry’s history on energy issues could not suggest a more dramatic contrast, and Ignatius does his readers, and the debate he rightly demands, a disservice by lumping the two together.

- LH