Energy Independance - a GOP Issue At Last?


The problems of the GOP are well known.  After nearly eight years of abandoning all conservative principle, the hapless, rudderless, befuddled Republicans no longer know what they stand for or what to do with themselves.  And you never hear from the elected leadership.  Does anyone know what direction Republicans want to take the country?  It is hard to know.

Having McCain as presumptive nominee and defacto leader of the party does not make it easier.  McCain, the "maverick," is wrong as often as he is right.  His foibles are well known, certainly to anyone who spends any time listening to talk radio.  The list of policies and proposals that bear his name, alongside those of Democrats, would give any conservative pause: McCain-Feingold (campaign finance), McCain-Kennedy (immigration), McCain-Lieberman (global warming initiatives), are all valid examples of why conservatives don't trust this guy, not that there are currently any other options.  That he continues to oppose drilling in ANWR puts him well outside the mainstream of his party.  His proposals for cap and trade and unrealistic carbon emissions standards for industry would, if enacted, do great damage to the economy and hurt our competitiveness.

So, the Republicans shuffle along, going nowhere fast, unsure, insecure, weak, spineless, a pale shadow of the party of Reagan and Gingrich, the party of Buckley and Goldwater, the party of conservative governance, freedom, personal responsibility, limited government, low taxes, traditional values, and strong defense.  Eternal principles to be hewed to, not ignored as they have been during the Bush years.

But with gas prices on a relentless upward climb, now above $4 a gallon and moving towards $5, and a barrel of crude at $137, the Republicans, if they are interested, have been given a gift, a winning issue that delineates them favorably from their Democrat rivals. 

"Drill here, drill now, pay less" (see "American Solutions") has become a rallying cry for concerned citizens and a natural for the GOP.  And, perhaps, the yawning need for a comprehensive energy policy that will lead to energy independence for our country will be the issue that galvanizes the Republican Party into a viable political force instead of the quivering, aimless, mush headed non entity it has been for several years.

That it dovetails nicely with the already reasonably strong position Republicans enjoy on national security is helpful.  That Americans have a natural aversion to sending billions of dollars to despots that despise us in the Middle East, not to mention other unsavory regimes in Russia and Venezuela further complements such a grand scheme.  This is an obvious issue for the GOP, which fits it perfectly given its usual ideologic predilection for a strong and independent US, not subordinate to foriegn powers. 

For the Democrats, energy independence generally devolves into a discussion over windmills, solar panels, "alternative fuels," and conservation none of which will satifsy our energy needs.  They are also hopelessly embroiled with the global warming crusade, which they have swallowed whole, with its sanctimonious insistence on lifestyle change, cutbacks, and reductions in CO2 emissions, which will not sit well with our restive nation nor meet the demands of a growing economy.  Ideologically, the Democrats are not well suited to debate effectively the issue of energy independence for it conflicts with too many elements of their governing philosophy and base, beholden as they are to radical environmentalists.  It will, in effect, be a rear guard, defensive battle for them.  An agile, adept, and fierce Republican attack will leave them wounded. 

The new thrust then for energy independence should include the following: open up the continental shelf and the coasts for exploration.  Increase refining capacity.  Develop oil/shale out west.  Nuclear - very important.  Go ANWR (with apologies to McCain who is wrong on this issue).  Flexfuel.  Not corn ethanol, which has been a disaster with rising food costs, poor people around the world unable to feed themselves, and significant environmental negatives, but other cellulosic fuels based on switch grass, sugar cane, wood chips, and even waste.  Methanol.  Liquid coal or "coal gas."  We have, as is often said, more coal in the midwest than oil in the Middle East.  Strongly consider a federal mandate calling for all cars sold in the US to be adapted to handle flexfuels as well as regular gas.  This is a relatively inexpensive update that will prompt a search for other fuels besides oil from the Middle East.  It will also encourage gas stations to offer flex fuel.  With gas inching towards $5 a gallon, such alternatives and renewable fuels become commercially viable.  But DRILL. 

Hybrids are helpful.  Good.  Car Pooling and other conservation measures such as mass transit are fine.  Electric cars?  Hydrogen fuel cells?  What about alternatives fuels?  Again, non corn based cellulosic fuels may play a role.  Encourage innovation and research through tax incentives.  Bacteria that excrete petroleum?  But DRILL.   

We cannot escape the need for black gold.  Why should OPEC enjoy a monopoly on fuel?  Why shouldn't America enter the game, bringing us closer to energy independence and creating more jobs for Americans?   

While they're at, they can also fold the energy independence issue into the argument for a strong dollar based on cutting the deficit, balanced budgets, reduced spending, and general fiscal discipline to help with currency exchange issues that themselves raise the cost of oil dramatically.  It will also help reduce inflation.  These are all traditional GOP positions and would fit well with a resurgent GOP returning to its traditional brand name issues.  One liberal party is enough. 

The Democrats will pull out the stops, create distractions, scream and moan, express outrage, cry foul, bob and weave, use smoke screens, throw dishes, wreck the furniture, anything they can do to divert attention from this issue.  Because they are afraid of it.  They know they are very weak here as they are on national security.  They know they are philosophically unsuited to deal effectively with these concerns.  Their Sierra Club base simply won't allow them to offer what is needed and wind mills and solar panels just won't cut it.  And it is as hot button an issue as can be. 

Virtually every American in the country is affected by the rising price of  gas and the Democrats are worried.  Very worried.  They will rant about speculators, about conspiracies, about Wall Street, about Big Oil, about liscenses already out there, about drilling on land that is already available, about the environment, about global warming and carbon emissions, about conservation, about new federal programs that "invest" in alternative fuels.  But they won't drill. They won't extract.  They won't refine.  They won't deliver.  They are vulnerable and the ferocity and desperation with which they trot out their bogus arguments demonstrates it all too well. 

But Americans, bread and butter, knots and bolts, working, lunch bucket Americans are being pinched.  And everyone else too.  They  know that Democratic proposals will do nothing to lower gas prices and reduce energy dependence or enhance national security.  They know intuitively that the Democrats are not equipped ideologically to  handle this issue.  Americans are not worried about non existent global warming, but they are worried about the cost of gas, energy independence, and sending billions to Arab dictators.  Strike now.  The GOP has finally found its issue.  Hopefully, it will also find its backbone.


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