Jonah Goldberg
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"Never mind." That, in a nutshell, is the White House's new position on domestic oil exploration. In March, President Obama announced that he would allow -- or at least entertain -- some new oil development off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This week he reversed himself, saying such exploration is now off the table for at least five years.

Only the most black-hearted cynics among us would even contemplate the notion that Obama had his re-election prospects in, say, Florida in mind when he made his decision. Then again, some believed that Obama's initial decision to consider expanded oil exploration was a political pander, too. So let's assume sincerity all the way down the decision tree.

The real problem with the White House's attitude toward oil, and energy generally, is how deeply ideological it is. Few presidents have talked a bigger game about pragmatism while pursuing a dogmatic agenda.

To be fair, the White House is hardly as radical as many of the Greens descending on Cancun this week for the next round of fruitless climate-change talks. For instance, Kevin Anderson, director of Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, recently authored a paper in which he argues that Western nations should use WWII-style rationing to simply halt economic growth for the next 20 years in order to curb greenhouse gas production. There's a winning political agenda!

Obama doesn't advocate anything so stark, but that's not necessarily a point in his favor. Radicals like Anderson are honest about the trade-offs between climate-change policies and economic growth. To listen to Obama, however, dismantling our fossil-fuel industries would be an unalloyed economic boon, generating countless lavish, rewarding green jobs that would replace those dirty, icky carbon-intensive jobs. It's not just an argument for a free lunch, it's an argument for a magic free lunch.

Obama admits he has no idea how to get to this Brigadoon-like green economy, and his Energy secretary has conceded it will take quite a few Nobel Prize-worthy scientific breakthroughs to even get close. Details, details.

The only detail missing is evidence. A friend of mine once ran a painting service in college whose unofficial motto was "We may be slow, but we're expensive." That's the story of Europe's pursuit of green jobs. They're inefficient, producing meager amounts of energy at high costs.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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