Ross Mackenzie

The primary campaigns have featured little discussion about energy.

Democrats tend to favor renewable fuels (solar, wind) and biofuels such as ethanol, but the prospects for such fuels adding much to the energy mix are limited. Democrats also favor tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and imposing strict emission controls for petroleum power — carbon output regulation (with federal penalties) and bagging stacks.

They favor reduction of gasoline usage through mandated fuel efficiencies (as in legislation signed by President Bush last month). They favor “excess profits” taxes on oil companies (remember?). And they favor international accords (e.g., Kyoto), wherein we would limit our industrial output while subsidizing Third World economies that lack our manufacturing capacity.

Republicans tend to favor building more nuclear plants (none authorized since the mid-1970s) and more oil refineries (none built in generally the same period). They also favor drilling on federal lands (e.g., the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge) and on the outer continental shelf.

To get the nation unhooked from petroleum long-term, Republicans favor — as well — incentives for nuclear-plant construction and tax credits for research and development of non-petroleum, alternative-fuel (especially hydrogen-driven) cars.

Generally, what Democrats favor Republicans oppose — and what Republicans favor Democrats oppose. This is why Washington accomplishes little to reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum. And so, our foreign oil habit grows ever worse, with our principal suppliers (or, to continue the metaphor, dealers )too often regimes and autocrats accustomed to making their way in the world detesting Uncle Sam. Their economies require that we continue to be hooked on their oil.

When the Democrats controlled Congress, they did little to break our foreign-oil habit. When the Republicans controlled Congress, they lacked sufficient numbers or sufficient leadership to overcome Democratic obstructionism fostered by “greens” clustered on the eco-left. And the 1990s, for instance, boasted a mere $8 for a barrel of crude — and the consequently soaring “Clinton economy.” In the year of their most recent congressional control (2007), the Democrats felt insufficiently moved by the crisis of our foreign oil habit to do much about it.

Now oil (in December) has topped $100 a barrel. The foreign percentage of our total petroleum usage stands at all-time highs. And the federal pols are pushing stimulus packages to ignite a recessioning economy.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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