Freedom Now

Ken Blackwell

7/31/2008 12:01:00 AM - Ken Blackwell

Nancy Pelosi wants to the save the planet. That was the House speaker's answer to why she is not allowing a vote on expanding domestic oil drilling. Unfortunately, Americans' need for an ambitious long-term plan for energy independence is placing a damper on the speaker's planet-saving pursuits.

The energy issue is taking center stage for the public, and the call for a decade-long national mobilization. If this issue is forced to the next level, Senator McCain might win the White House and Republicans might avoid another election year rout.

First, Mr. McCain must outline an ambitious - Kennedy to the moon ambitious - energy plan aimed at transforming America from an energy importer to an energy exporter.

He should start with the obvious. Only conventional sources can address America's short-term energy needs. The nation has the infrastructure to use coal, oil, and natural gas, and all it needs is additional supply.

Critics of expanded domestic exploration say it will not address the nation's immediate needs because the benefits won't be seen for 10 years. Not true. There are dormant drilling facilities already in place that could yield oil in less than one year and some locations would yield oil in three. And both the outer continental shelf and shale rock could begin yielding oil in five to seven years.

America should not be importing 70% of its oil, much of it from countries that don't have our interests at heart. With at least 900 billion barrels of recoverable oils reserves - several times the known oil reserves on the Arabian Peninsula - it does not have to.

Coal is another energy source available right now. I married into a family of coal miners. The nation has the world's largest coal deposits, and can recover it quickly. Recent advances in clean coal technology make it increasingly attractive and can radically cut pollution, and further advances hold promise for making coal power completely clean.

Mr. McCain and Republicans need a future-oriented focus. The goal should be to change our economy and our energy sector.

The cost of solar power production is dropping, and solar power is on the rise. Many have seen T. Boone Pickens's Fox News Channel commercials promoting windmills. There are other sources such as the ocean tides and geothermal power. But right now all of these renewable, clean sources only account for perhaps 4% of our nation's energy. Mr. McCain needs to push for a tenfold increase in the amount of power we get from these clean sources over perhaps the next decade.

And then there is nuclear energy. Eco-friendly France gets 70% of its power from nuclear sources, while America gets 20% from it. Nuclear power is safe, and generates staggering amounts of energy. We need to double or triple the amount of power we get from nuclear energy.

Democrats are handing Republicans an issue that could decide the election. Now 75% of Americans favor immediately drilling here in America and 71% favor offshore drilling, according to a Fox News opinion poll. Americans reached a tipping point at $4 a gallon for gasoline, and we'll see $5 soon enough. Yet Mrs. Pelosi and Senator Majority Leader Reid are refusing to allow a vote.

Barack Obama's new commercial for energy policy shows his energy plan consisting of increasing mileage requirements on cars, regulating speculation in the markets, and taxing oil companies. None of that will address the supply shortfalls.

So Republicans for this year's election should adopt the "Do Everything Now" approach. They should be relentless in forcing these issues to votes in Congress. And the McCain campaign should talk about this issue every day.

The White House can force this issue to the next level and reshape the nation's debate. Congress is scheduled to go on vacation this Friday. As a writer for the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer, suggested, the president should exercise his constitutional power to call Congress into special session for the sole purpose of voting on domestic oil exploration.

Democratic leaders will either be pressured to eventually allow a vote, in which case America can start increasing supply, or they will refuse, and make this a pivotal voting issue for millions of working-class Americans.

With quick action, America can lead the way in developing and exporting clean energy. And we will be able to export oil and coal - in increasingly clean forms - to the rest of the world. Millions of American jobs will be created, and our national security will be made more secure through energy independence.

That's an awfully ambitious plan. Only a president can marshal our nation for such a massive undertaking. And if Mr. McCain can lay out such an ambitious case to the American people, he just might become president.