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The scariest thing

Tucked in between the smiles and talking points of the vice presidential debate I heard the single scariest thing I’ve heard yet in this election: John McCain wants to put Sarah Palin in charge of our national energy policy.

Without a comprehensive and ambitious plan to wean our nation of foreign oil, we will quite simply continue to fund both sides of the war on terror by engaging in the largest transfer of wealth ever, flowing out of the U.S. Treasury and right into the coffers of the radial extremist regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela. Let me put it this way: OPEC would be able to fund the entirety of the recently passed bailout plan in just two weeks of production. Just do not fool yourself into thinking that they would have our best interests so at heart.

Without a smart energy plan, our debt will only grow, we will continue to lose jobs to China, and the ice caps will continue to melt at an alarming pace with unimaginable consequences. Unless we figure out a different, better plan to power America, the only thing we will be empowering is rouge regimes and the lobbying power of oil companies.



To be fair, Sarah Palin spoke well about the consequences of our dependence on foreign oil, so why do I think her lead on energy policy is so terrifying? Because she spoke of the consequences without being able to outline any plan of action other than “Drill, baby, drill.”

The United States has only 3 percent of global oil reserves, while we consume 25 percent of oil produced. Even with improved technologies and expanded drilling, optimistically we would only be able to extract about two-thirds of that 3 percent. The numbers simply do not add up to a real solution. Giving the American people an energy plan based on expanded drilling is like serving up cranberry sauce when we need a whole Thanksgiving feast.



So let talk about what’s necessary to serve up that energy feast. First, the wind and solar subsidies that McCain has voted against eight times in this last year in the name of the free market. To be clear, worshipping the free market when energy is the product is worshipping one of the falsest idol of all. A state regulatory board ” rather than the laws of supply and demand ” decides our electricity prices, and OPEC is perfectly capable of tweaking oil prices whenever they feel inspired.

On top of that, taxpayers subsidize oil in gargantuan proportion. Iraq is hardly the only country where U.S. troops protect oil supplies. American troops spend day and night securing oil pipelines in Columbia, Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Georgia. A 2005 joint study by the University of California and University of Alaska estimates that the cost to the American taxpayer for securing those oil fields is $120 billion annually, roughly 25 percent of U.S. spending on defense or intelligence, not including Iraq.

You can bet that if oil companies were paying that security fee, the price at the pump would be a whole lot less competitive. The free market that Palin and McCain so love requires free competition on an even playing field. If they refuse to give wind and solar the fraction of subsidies sent to oil companies every day, that playing field is perhaps fatally tilted against alternatives, seriously imperiling our energy future. An independent study by Navigant Consulting found that “112,000 jobs and … $19 billion in investment are at risk” if the renewable energy tax credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year.



In terms of national energy policy, expanded drilling is roughly equivalent to banning gasoline-powered lawn mowers. There is no joke here, as McCain knows full well. The terrifying thing is that he is willing to put a woman in charge of our national energy policy who actually seems to think that those lawnmowers will solve the whole problem.


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