Here’s a news flash for Congress: there are no quick fixes. That statement of fact won’t stop the pandering, but we’re still of the belief that checking in with the truth as it exists, rather than as pols imagine it, is healthy.
Easier said than done. True to form, politicians are inclined to find a silver lining in an otherwise threatening cloud. When the cloud is energy, the knee-jerk reaction in Washington is to make grand proclamations that have no immediate relevance (such as President Bush’s claim that America should decrease its dependence on Middle East oil), or else devise near-term “solutions” that are short on solution and long on drumming up votes.
The latest examples comes by way of the $100 rebate plan backed by the Republicans, which was spurned by at least one Democrat in the Senate as being ineffective, albeit by offering too little. Accordingly, the Democrat upped the ante and suggested a $500 rebate.

No one with a brain believes either idea will solve anything. Why, then, even propose the idea? We have our suspicions, and so do a lot of other people, which may be the reason that so many citizens are reportedly dismissing the rebate idea as more of the same from Washington’s pols.
There’s been one long energy crisis in America for more than 30 years, albeit a crisis that waxes and wanes in severity and at times appears dormant. Over those three decades, there’s been a lot of talk about crafting a true energy policy but precious little action. Technology, of course, has delivered rewards, spurring efficiency and thereby saving fuel that would otherwise be lost. But technology is primarily a child of the private sector.
What’s more, the easy gains from technology are behind us. There are countless new technologies that potentially will add up more advances in making existing supplies of oil go further, but their impact will be obvious only in the aggregate.
Meanwhile, far bigger rewards await in the political realm, if only the politicians could focus on the strategic and minimize the tactical. The past 30-plus years suggest that’s easier said than done. Indeed, the past week suggests no less. Only in America, where a fundamental supply/demand energy squeeze is biting, does the legislature come up with the idea that handing out money will help. It won’t. In fact, one could make the case that politicians should be advising the country that the days of cheap energy are gone. Instead, some pols are intent on keep the cheap-energy notion alive, even if only marginally and if comes at the price of using taxpayer dollars.
But the luxury of ignoring the challenge and instead trying to figure out a plan that maximizes vote-gathering success is an idea whose time has passed. It’s up to the electorate to drive that point home to politicians running for office. Energy is increasingly the biggest issue on the table, and should be treated accordingly in elections. Energy purchases, in some cases, is a mechanism that indirectly funnels money to terrorists while consuming a large and perhaps rising share of GDP from here on out.
Here’s an idea: asking each and every politician that asks for your vote: What’s your energy plan? With the answer (or obfuscation) in hand, each and every voter can decide if it passes the smell test. After all, it’s you’re money. Now’s a good a time as any to demand that it be spent wisely in promoting an energy plan that at least gives lip service to long-term success.
© 2006 by James Picerno. All rights reserved.