McDonnell Clueless on Energy, Environment Challenges of 21st Century

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I just finished reading Tom Friedman's bestseller, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America. In short, a "green revolution" is no longer optional, it's mandatory - for our economy, our environment, and our national security. A "green revolution" isn't just about disasters to avoid, it's about tremendous opportunities to seize. As Friedman writes, the "green issue" - or as he calls it "outgreening" - represents a "competitive opportunity," and that for us to "miss this as reckless as to ignore [it]." If America is to seize the tremendous opportunity offered by the need for an energy revolution, we will need to change the "bad habits that have let build up over the last three decades." That means, first and foremost, thinking differently about the challenges that face us today, and moving beyond 19th century - or 1950s - style thinking. In the energy arena, that means moving rapidly past the era of carbon-based fuels towards a new world of "clean, reliable and cheap electrons." Friedman is talking about energy efficiency -- by far, the lowest of low-hanging fruits -- plus renewable sources like solar, wind, tidal, wave, and geothermal. That's where we need to go as a nation, for "geo" (geostrategic), "green" (environmental), and economic reasons. Frankly, anyone who knows anything at this point should be well aware of this.

Unfortunately, here in Virginia, we have a candidate for governor whose head is stuck in the sands of the 1950s, or possibly even the 19th century. As the Roanoke Times writes this morning, "Virginia will never be the 'energy capital of America' with McDonnell's single-minded focus on coal, oil and other fossil fuels."
McDonnell hasn't even proposed putting windmills on offshore drilling platforms.

Green energy will take time to develop, and incentives will be necessary -- especially with the global recession forcing down the price of oil.

It will take visionary leadership to help the commonwealth focus on renewable energy, conservation and other 21st century approaches to meeting the state's and nation's energy needs.

So far, McDonnell is proposing an energy plan that seems far more suited to the 1950s. Virginia will never be the nation's energy capital with that kind of thinking.

In short, Bob McDonnell doesn't "get it" on energy issues, in the same way he doesn't "get it" in so many other areas as well. I would argue, however, that the what Friedman calls the "Energy-Climate era" represents THE defining challenge of our day, and that failure to understand this concept should be an automatic disqualifier for anyone seeking higher political office. That's why I found it so jarring to finish reading "Hot Flat and Crowded," then to read the Roanoke Times this morning about GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell's clueless plans for more of the "same old, same old," for more mountaintop removal, for more "drill baby drill" idiocy, and for more icecap-melting CO2 spewing into the atmosphere. It's like there's no recognition there at all as to what we're facing as a state, as a nation, or as a planet.

Perhaps the problem is that Bob McDonnell has received huge amounts of money over the years from the Energy and Natural Resources industry (e.g., Dominion Power, coal mining interests). Or, perhaps McDonnell is, to quote Tom Friedman, one of "those conservatives who simply refuse to accept the reality of climate change because they hate the solution - more government regulation and intervention." Either way, he should not be our next governor. In an era of "hot, flat and crowded," we can't afford politicians who have their heads in the sand...or in a part of their anatomy that should be anatomically impossible to reach.