The placement of two recent in articles on the topic of energy in supposedly conservative magazines would leave the impression that these views are consistent with conservative thought. Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute wrote “Energy Policy Snake Oil” for Townhall Magazine in the November issue; and Tom Bethell, a senior editor at The American Spectator penned “Has Oil Peaked? Maybe Not” for the October issue by his employer.
Each of these articles highlights two points: first, the attitude of some people, who define themselves as Republicans or call themselves conservatives, is grossly unaligned with traditional conservative thinking; and second, any discussion about global warming or peak oil serves more to divide than coalesce thoughtful discourse on US energy policy.
For too long conservatives have acted more as PRE servatives than innovative thinkers about today’s problems. In an election where “change” was de rigeur the Republican nominees never really got it. They bandied about the same tired policies that had seemed fresh 30 years ago but which now are afoul with stink of “43” who has sullied the good name of conservatism. Sure, Senator McCain and Governor Palin tried to market themselves as mavericks, but unpredictability is not change—it is only confusing, and Americans saw through their charade.
It is as true as sunrise that conservatives wish to conserve that which liberals brought about. Our founding fathers, advocates of throwing off state religion and revolution against the motherland, were as progressive and liberal in their approach to future as any Americans in the history of this great country. They understood there were times when the status quo simply would not suffice and radical change was in order.
Republican attempts to simply recreate the Reagan era are as poorly conceived as the most liberal thinking by the Democrats. We cannot hope to preserve the past as a way to grow and nurture our nation, unless it is our desire to create a national Williamsburg—selling tickets to an image and notion of the past which matters little to the outside world.
Having arrived in 2008 in a gasoline powered economy, we now know that our thinking on energy must be given the highest national attention. We are forced to pour money into the economies of our enemies; our soldiers are dying while trying to safeguard fuel convoys to forward operating bases; our expenditures on depreciating assets are losing value faster every day; the global economy is not as inexpensive as it once was due to rising transportation costs; our electrical power grids are prime targets for terrorism; and selfishness in pursuit of the “good old days” is creating monstrous debts our children and grandchildren will have to pay off.
It should be incumbent on the debtor to be the debt bearer and yet we seem all too comfortable trying to preserve our lifestyle rather than trying to conserve our nation. Investment is an inherently conservative principle. We invest in the things we value and through investment we impart worth. We hope to see our investments grow and prosper, not through maintenance but through progressive growth.
Mr. Michaels and Mr. Bethell seem to write from a point of view of ones seeking to preserve today’s lifestyle as opposed to gentlemen committed to American exceptionalism through innovation and progression. Mr. Michaels writes about US energy policy while referring frequently to global warming. Mr. Bethell takes exception to the concept of peak oil. Neither of these topics is a necessary impetus to alter US energy policy. In my list, two paragraphs above, did I mention carbon, global warming, or peak oil? Each of these topics is hotly debated by experts in their fields, with only name-calling and not consensus as a by-product. Yet many so called conservatives feel qualified, after listening to Republican Talk Radio hosts discuss the faulty science of left-leaning academia, to comment on these highly technical topics.
Conservative entertainers heard on the AM dial are skewing the effective discourse on US energy policy by making listeners pick sides. The facts are these: no one really knows about global warming and peak oil (and I just angered readers on both sides of both debates). We have our opinions. But other than providing intellectually stimulating discourse around the water cooler, smoke shack or hors dourves tray, these topics serve no useful purpose.
The minute I mention “global warming” in any energy discussion, 40% of America stops listening, not because they don’t understand the importance of energy, but because they don’t personally believe global warming is happening or is problematic. At the point I mention “peak oil,” I am met with a barrage of pseudo-scientific psycho-babble parroted from the most recent Drudge report link.
Discussion on either of these two topics should be avoided at all costs when discussing the need for change in US energy policy. Whether oil will dry up tomorrow or in 200 years doesn’t matter. We know it will one day so why not address the problem at today’s prices for the benefit of our heirs? Whether the world is warming or not as a result of human activity is irrelevant—I’ve never heard anyone say that pumping carbon into the atmosphere is helphing–have you?
If we make the changes to US energy policy that are required, we will improve our national security, we will lower the prices of goods and services, we will create jobs, we will restore America’s standing in the world, we will win the war on terror by bankrupting terrorists, we will rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure; and, oh yea, we’ll put less carbon in the atmosphere which can’t hurt.
Mr. Michaels speaks of the high cost of changing; but let me speak of the high cost of NOT changing and while I’m doing it, I’ll never mention global warming or peak oil.