Energy in need of politically popular change

Bob Tippee

A political campaign with "change" as a rallying call should be good for energy policy in the US. But don't count on anything.

Because "change" can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean that suggests departure from some perceived norm, it's a marvelously useful political word.

Early in the presidential primary season, incantation of change galvanized the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Now all candidates of both political parties promise to be first-order changers.

So far, particulars don't seem to matter much. Change in general will do for now.

That this is so testifies to widespread American discontent.

Protracted war in Iraq no doubt explains much about the dour US mood. And abysmal approval ratings for not only a wartime president but also congressional leaders from the opposition political party hint at general disdain for Washington, DC.

There can be little doubt, too, that the US is politically polarized. A large part of the population craves change in the liberal direction. Another part clamors for a conservative turn.

Now, after withdrawal of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the Republican race, staunch conservatives will be seeking change from the now-likely nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whom they see as too liberal.

Or maybe McCain's success means that the Republican Party already has changed and that orthodox conservatives haven't yet gotten the message.

Whatever, McCain, unless something now unseen derails his candidacy, will effuse "change" through November. In this wild political year, he'll have to.

The Arizona senator might strengthen his standing with conservatives by taking change to where the US needs it: an energy policy needing a strong dose of realism.

Chasing impossible dreams like energy independence and a carbon-free energy economy, the US is undermining its prosperity with one costly mistake after another.

Change is surely in order. A candidate willing to resist popular but self-sacrificial energy fantasies, as McCain stood up to the party faithful on key issues in the Senate, would be impressive.

Alas, the senator's voting record indicates that when he trumpets "change," constructive action on energy won't be what he has in mind.

(Online Feb. 8, 2008; author's e-mail:

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