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Back, or Forward to the Energy Future?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
p>Over the years, many have wondered what happened to “Say Anything” star Ione Skye. Now we may have our answer. In the movie her character, Diane Court, famously urged her fellow graduates to “go back.” So maybe Ione has followed her own advice and become an environmentalist.

Greens today are all about going back. Back to a world with fewer, cars fewer power plants and less energy use. Some may think that sounds appealing. But not those of us near the nation’s capital. We’ve recently had to live through it, if only for a few days.

A recent storm ripped down trees and knocked out power all around Washington, D.C. While the high temperature topped 95 day after day, hundreds of thousands of area residents sweated it out with no air conditioning and no refrigeration.

But this is just a preview of the dystopian future that supposedly awaits Americans unless we repent of our energy-intensive ways, according to some enviros.

“It now seems that the global climate is becoming unstable at a rapid pace,” warns the “peak oil” columnist at the Falls Church News-Press. “This will eventually result in increased hunger, malnutrition and higher death rates. Somewhere along the line the effects of climate change may become so bad that a consensus will develop that the burning of fossil fuels must be sharply curtailed or the economic costs of rising temperatures become too much to bear or as some believe do us all in.” In other words, we’d better use less energy, or our planet will be destroyed.

One thing’s for sure: in the blistering heat that spawned and followed the storm, even some environmentally-minded liberals found themselves melting down.

“It is the millions who live in Washington, D.C. and its perimeter who constitute the total response capability of the nation to an attack and it is those millions who were effectively cut off by the storm and rendered helpless from numerous standpoints,” thundered the owner of the FCNP, a staunchly Democratic newspaper.

His answer: greater centralization of power in Washington. “In this case, the lack of integration of vital elements of our regional infrastructure, from the major utilities to the state and federal government and their agencies, is to blame. By this I do not mean more bureaucracies and cell phones, but I mean the deployment of Homeland Security dollars to the task of undergrounding utility lines, for one.”

But even assuming that would work (it wouldn’t), where would the money come from? The failed Obama “stimulus” plan came and went, spending some $1 trillion the country didn’t have without delivering on its promise to create jobs. Our federal budget deficit tops $15 trillion, with another trillion or so in deficit Obamacare spending on the way. Entitlement spending is on track to almost double by 2050. In just three years, the Obama administration has done more than its part to increase the federal deficit.

So there simply isn’t any cash available to throw at this problem, even if we wanted to do so or thought it might help. But this is an area where we could look to the past for guidance.

In The Washington Post, columnist Robert Samuelson explains that the country is “still paying the price for the greatest blunder in domestic policy since World War II,” when policymakers in the Kennedy administration decided to pursue a policy of growing inflation and deficit spending.

The resulting pile of debt, run up by leaders of both parties across decades, “has limited government’s ability to ‘stimulate’ the economy through higher spending or deeper tax cuts -- or, at least, to have a meaningful debate over these proposals. The careless resort to deficits in the past has made them harder to use in the present, when the justification is stronger,” Samuelson writes.

So a sensible first step would be to “go back,” to a time when political leaders strove for balanced budgets. Doing so would bring down the federal deficit.

The problem isn’t a lack of resources. As Mark Mills at the Manhattan Institute reports, “An affirmative policy to expand extraction and export capabilities for all hydrocarbons over the next two decades could yield as much as $7 trillion of value to the North American economy, with $5 trillion of that accruing to the United States, including generating $1–$2 trillion in tax receipts to federal and local governments. Such a policy would also create millions of jobs rippling throughout the economy.”

There’s no need to go back. Instead, we need to move forward, into a bright energy future. It’s there for us, if we’re willing to work for it.

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