Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Friedman - Dumb as we wanna be

NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman has a great op-ed on the farce that is US energy policy (I get the sense a book is coming). In addition to timely remarks on subsidies for wind and solar, he calls Clinton's and McCain's promise to cut the federal gas tax for the summer what it really is: political pandering.

Sadly, the phenomena is neither new nor unique to the US. This is what I wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed about the 2004 federal election in Canada:

The disappearance of prominent environmental issues at election time is hardly a new phenomenon. In the battle for votes, everyone longs to appear green, but will not advocate any policy that might be perceived, correctly or not, as damaging to the voter's wallet.

This election in particular has fallen prey to the opportunistic notion that scoring a favourable headline in the morning paper on the issue of the day is more important than presenting an integrated vision for the country. The result is fragmented political platforms in which environmental issues are the big losers.

The high price of gasoline provides a perfect opportunity to promote the need for higher automotive fuel efficiency, more funding for public transit, and reduced smog in our cities. These are issues of interest to all Canadians; dealing with them would help reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the debate focuses entirely on which party can deliver lower gas prices.

The price of gas has doubled since I wrote that column. Yet outside of Obama (and maybe the Greens in Canada), the political response remains the same.

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