Every spring, millions of children run out to the ball field for the first time with a bat and a glove, dreaming of hitting their first home run. That they have neither the hand-eye coordination to hit or catch a ball doesn’t seem to deter them. That’s why we invented T-ball: the game where three strikes doesn’t mean you’re out; it just means you get to hit a stationary ball. The “T” stands for the black plastic gadget where the ball is placed, but the “T” should also stand for “teachable” because it’s the place where children can learn the fundamentals of the game in a way that helps keep their interest and boosts their chances for success.
Maybe it’s time for us to consider a similar instrument for our nation’s energy policy because it seems like we too lack the hand-eye coordination necessary to connect.
In the last 12 months there’ve been three golden opportunities for the American public and its leaders to have an honest conversation about the Frankenstein we’ve helped create around the world with our ever-increasing energy appetites. First, there was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; then Middle East turmoil and revolution; this week, Japan’s Fukushima tsunami-induced nuclear accident. It’s as if The Big Dipper unfurled into a giant arrow pointing us towards the North Star of carbon-free energy independence, but we’re still having trouble focusing the telescope lens.
Having squandered those three pitches, it appears we’re going to have a grapefruit-sized pitch lobbed at us this summer in the form of $4-$5/gallon gasoline. Hopefully, bat will meet ball.
From a partisan political standpoint, this could be the opportunity the President needs to move the macro D.C. dialogue away from who can make deeper cuts to the budget’–an argument Democrats never seem to win–to an appeal he alluded to in the State of the Union speech earlier this year as he called for this generation’s clean energy Moonshot.
From a historic standpoint, “A Call To Manufacturing Arms” is about an industry that can revive our sagging blue collar workforce while injecting life into the stubborn economic doldrums plaguing the nation, revive our innovation edge and end the hemorrhaging of lives and money overseas.
This is an opportunity, once and for all, to eliminate the billions in subsidies directed to the old line fossil fuel industries and redirect them to a smarter electric system and put in place a national renewable energy standard that will signal certainty to the financial markets that the United States is committed to a clean energy path.
Sure, calling for sacrifice is what loses elections, except for when there’s a galvanizing call for the nation’s greatness (See: Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, LBJ and even Reagan). No one remembers the tax rates or deficits at the time, but they do remember defeating totalitarianism, saving the union, expanding the right to vote and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Worried about being called a – “big government loving liberal?” Call out the generals and admirals who can tell Americans that fuel supply convoy deaths account for half of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. If makes you a liberal to support the troops, you ought to proudly wear the label. The Navy (hardly a liberal bastion) already committed to deriving half of their fuel supplies from American-engineered biofuels by 2016 and 100% by 2020. Nothing focuses attention like lost lives on the front lines. They understand the strategic endgame behind clean energy and know the path we’ve been on is a dead end.
Mr. President, we’ve heard your calls for an audacity of hope and listened as you’ve spoken honestly and eloquently about difficult subjects like race. While Albert Pujols is showing millions of kids this summer what a perfect major-league swing looks like, please put up a “T” for the rest of us who have more trouble following the ball. Missing another pitch might just cause us to go home for good.