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Listening Closely to the Energy Debate

Posted on the 20 March 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Listening Closely to the Energy DebateWe do not take a political position on this site. However, the other morning the three Republican candidates for the nomination all had curious comments on U.S. energy. I say three, because the radio station I was listening to did not mention Texas Representative Ron Paul’s position on the issue.

I suppose the first question one ought to ask is whether energy is a political or scientific issue. Policy is set by the government, which plays a role in determining the direction of research, but listening to Republican candidates ahead of the recent primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, one would think that the current focus on clean energy is detrimental to our future. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said ”The biggest issue this fall is going to be drilling versus algae. It’s going to be 2.50 a gallon versus $10 a gallon,” placing himself in opposition to what he believes is the current administration’s disregard for the price of gasoline and asking which future “we want for our children.” Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney stated that gasoline prices have doubled since the current administration came into office, failing to acknowledge that they were even higher before the recession, hitting more than $4 per gallon in the summer of 2008. While gas prices have risen, especially in the past few months, this may have less to do with policy than world events. Just yesterday, the New York Times reported that Romney has taken the position that the current administration actively pushes prices at the pump higher. The article goes on to connect Romney’s position to an interview by then Senator Obama who said, while campaigning in 2008, “given the global price of oil right now . . . we can’t artificially lower gas prices.”

A  comment from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also caught me by surprise. In a speech he stated “We’ve seen that the president has a two-letter energy policy: N-O. And we need a policy that says – doesn’t say no to the development of energy.” Yet, the president’s policy has been an all of the above approach, with imports at the lowest levels since the mid-1990s. Oddly enough, the same report stated that both Gingrich and Santorum support such an approach, “Gingrich, called for an all-of-the-above domestic energy policy, as did his rival, Rick Santorum.”

With all of this in mind, the question truly is, what kind of energy economy do we want? The future will contain shrinking supplies of conventional oil. It is a limited resource after all, unless it is derived from living organisms like algae. Depending on how you answer the first question (whether or not one thinks energy is political or not) goes a long way to how one views the future of energy. Here’s for making the case that energy is a science concern, not an inherently political one.

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