Are Californians serious? When they kicked Gray Davis out of the governor's office on Oct. 7, did they truly intend to repair their state's economy?
The rest of the US has a large stake in answers to these questions.
California has a $38 billion public deficit, an economy weakened by companies fleeing excessive regulation and social mandates, and a highly taxed population understandably reluctant to surrender more of their wealth to the state.
It soon will have Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.
Media attention focuses on what the political-party shift might mean to next year's presidential election.
Some of it should go to how origins of California's budget problems already affect non-Californians.
A political orientation responsible for much of the state's fiscal mess costs the nation plenty.
Because influential Californians don't like the sight of offshore oil and gas equipment, they've managed to shut down not only leasing of federal acreage off their state but also activity on existing but undeveloped leases.
The state and federal governments therefore have far less lease-bonus, royalty, and income-tax revenue to share than they would have otherwise. And a promising resource makes only a fraction of its potential contribution to US energy supply.
East Coast states mimic California's ridiculous aversion to wealth from hydrocarbon resources.
And while oil and gas potential goes untested and underdeveloped off the East and West coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the federal government touts wildly expensive hydrogen as preferable to imported oil.
The federal government needs to get serious, too.
"Hallelujah!" declared Davis last April when the Bush administration relinquished a legal challenge to his plan to buy back 36 undeveloped federal leases.
"Californians are adamantly opposed to offshore oil drilling. I will not rest until we have written 'closed' to every undeveloped lease."
The costs of that attitude are coming dueand not just in California.
Californians were serious enough about their state's economic future to unseat a governor.
They should be serious enough about it to allow resource development, the foreclosure of which no economynot even California'scan afford.
(Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)