Bush Needs an Energy Tinkerbell

Posted: May 22, 2001 12:00 AM
Californians are demanding that George W. Bush do something about California's energy woes. His 163-page energy plan will never cut it here: It requires actions that violate our rarified sensibilities, such as building power plants, maybe even in the sacrosanct Bay Area. Bush should understand the Golden State mindset, junk his tome and kiss up to the state's fantastical approach to energy. Forget pipeline capacity and conservation credits. Let him promise to send the Golden State an electricity fairy and a cheap-gas genie. State Sen. Tom McClintock gave me the idea when he noted on KSFO radio last week that there is no such thing as an electricity fairy. Maybe. But since it would take a fairy to give Golden Staters the energy they expect at the cheap prices they demand in the face of supply shortfalls, why not promise a fairy? Staging is key. First, the electricity fairy should look ethereal, maybe like Kate Hudson, but not too ethereal like Gray Davis. The cheap-gas genie should go for the Benicio del Toro look. (His smoldering good looks could start a lot of motors running.) Then, when the chief comes to California, he should make a beeline for Coyote Valley. San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez and the City Council rejected building a proposed 600-megawatt electrical plant at the site, even though they approved building a humungous net-server expected to consume 150 megawatts. Figure that local politicians already believe in the electricity fairy. The White House will have to ditch its routine of ridiculing California for wanting cheap energy without energy generation. Instead, Bush should tell people what they want to hear. Tell them they have a right to cheap energy. And a right to insist that their electricity is generated in some tacky state that doesn't love the environment as Californians do. Tell them that electricity shortages should not drive prices up, that the state is so big that we roll over the law of supply and demand. Tell them that families in other states should have to eat higher rates to atone for our mistakes. The electricity fairy could say things like: "Let's try more natural ways to produce energy." Then Bush could add that if Californians clap hard enough, the energy fairy will convert the sound energy into power to serve 100,000 homes. There's just one catch: Californians have to make sacrifices to the pipeline morlocks by leaving millions of hard-earned dollars at state borders. The cheap-gas genie would make his entrance in an SUV. Buff the hood, and the genie grants three high-octane wishes. He could tell Californians they have a right to cheap gasoline made from crude drilled only in the Middle East, the Third World or Texas and Louisiana. He could agree that Californians' opposition to drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge should have more weight than Alaskans' support for drilling. Why should Alaskans get their way just because they live there? He then would extol Californians for having the courage to grouse about Bush's failure to push for more energy conservation even as they drive their gas-guzzling SUVs. Californians must sacrifice to the gas gods as well. They will have to find virgins -- no one said it would be easy -- to ride public transportation so that others may drive their cars in peace. But then, it is a long-held tradition for Californians' to assuage their consumption guilt by voting for projects that allow other people to take public transit. That leaves only one danger: that some Democrat might try to spoil the gambit. Tell voters there is no electricity fairy and there is no cheap-gas genie. Of course, if a Democrat were to say that, how could he argue that Californians have a right to cheap electricity, even if California lacks big juice generators? How does he argue Californians should demand cheap gas and no drilling in the Arctic refuge? See, it's easier to stick with the fairy story. It works better with the party agenda.
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