When it comes to drilling, they have us on the run

09/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lloyd Alter Architect, teacher, Design editor and Writer for

spirit airlines ad on drilling photo
Spirit Airlines ad

I am loath to comment on American politics in this space; I am a Canadian, an architect who usually writes about more trivial things. I have written posts for TreeHugger making fun of McCain's drill now drill everywhere speeches, but am beginning to think that this is no longer a laughing matter, that this could become the defining issue of this election, and that we can blow the whole show if we don't grab this one back.

Graham Hill wrote earlier in this space that in the end, its all about me, it is all about self-interest. That can be a good thing; if people are riding bikes and growing food, who cares if they are doing it to save money rather than reduce their carbon footprint? On the other hand, self interest can be very powerful if you are looking at the gas pump and wondering if you can afford to fill your tank.

The Republicans are staking out their position: climate change is irrelevant; putting gas in your car is not. Your job and your car matter; what Al Gore says might happen to your kid's environment does not. We respond by saying that drilling won't make a difference in the price or availability of gas; intuitively that doesn't resonate- when gas companies drill, they usually deliver gasoline, that's what they do for a living.

The Republicans know this issue is golden; some websites are running posts titled We Are Killing Them on Energy; Daniel Henninger writes in the Wall Street Journal: "Democrats this week chose the prayer of alternative energy over proven prosperity. They've handed prosperity in the here-and-now to the Republicans. Run with it" This is the Willie Horton of 2008, the issue that we have to take back and own or lose. After sitting through the coldest, wettest summer in memory after suffering 18 feet of snow last winter, claiming climate change as a factor doesn't cut it even for me, who has a vague comprehension of the difference between weather and climate.

Frances Beinecke writes at the NRDC Switchboard that The Cheapest Source of Energy Is Still Waiting to Be Tapped:

"Remember, the cheapest form of energy is the energy we don't need to buy in the first place. And yet, even while Americans are worried about making their dollar stretch as far as it can, the tremendous power of energy efficiency is being dismissed.

Leadership is the missing ingredient. Strong, forward-thinking leaders would:

1. Show Americans that efficiency isn't about sacrifice. It's about ingenuity, high-tech solutions, and saving money.

2. Enact policies that give car makers, tire manufacturers, and motor oil companies incentives to make more efficient products."

I am not sure that these are the best, or the only responses. I am sure that if we don't grab this issue by the balls we may lose this election. Americans run their cars, boats, ATVs and dirtbikes on gas and unless we have a good answer about what we are going to do without it, we are toast in November.