Not Quite the ‘Apollo Program’ for the Energy Future
The first half of President Barack Obama’s first Oval Office address was as it should have been: holding BP accountable for the devastation to our Gulf Coast and outlining in broad terms what the government is going to do to ensure people and the environment are made whole.
The second half of the speech was unnecessary at the moment and came across as political opportunism.
I don’t doubt for one second that Obama believes it when he says this country is addicted to oil and that energy independence and a clean energy future are strategically – perhaps existentially – critical goals for the United States.
I don’t think tonight was the time because now is the time for the nation to be laser-focused on our neighbors’ travails on the Gulf Coast. Everyone knows that the Obama Administration’s commitment to clean energy and a green economy is only rivaled by its commitment to health care reform. It wasn’t necessary tonight to take the focus off of the immediate task, even for the eight minutes or so the president discussed national energy policy. And, that energy policy is a politically divisive topic as it is currently framed. Evil, multi-national oil companies and terrorists on one side vs. Smart Car drivin’, Birkenstock wearin’ idealists on the other. It’s just not fair to the people of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to have to share their moment with the Cap and Trade debate.
Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for a president of the United States of America to utter words to that effect regarding energy policy in this country. Tonight, though, they rang hollow. I’m watching this live feed of black and brown shit jetting, pouring into the Gulf of Mexico at the revised-again rate of 65-100 thousand barrels per day. Anderson Cooper is on TV with not just oil-slicked birds, but the eggs of brown pelicans – recently stepped on by “BP cleanup workers.” Keith Olbermann actually screamed “Goddammit” last night on Countdown. (That was actually about something else.) One crisis at a time, please!
The time for the second half of tonight’s speech would have been after the black gold is no longer boiling out of the bottom right hand corner of my flat screen. It’s just so politician. If we have a chance to ring the bell, what the hell, ring it. Ginning up the Manhattan Project rhetoric for the energy future falls flat when there’s no plan or funding behind the Project. This clean, independent energy future is too important for the country to put folks to sleep with it by unleashing the grandiloquence without an Apollo Program-like effort ready to blast off in support of the goal.
Let’s hope that after tonight Washington concentrates on the tasks at hand – economic and environmental – in repulsing the plumes emanating from BP’s disaster. At the appropriate time, when our leaders’ attention can be fully engaged in a comprehensive effort to build the next energy economy, let’s embark on that mission to “unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”