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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Find Buzz for Energy Independence Reforms Elusive

One of the Dems’ biggest challenges in struggling against the most incompetent and corrupt Administration in U.S. history is that there is so much scandal, mess and outrage du jour that it’s hard to get any coverage for their pro-active solutions to America’s most critical problems. What should be the Dems’ strongest card, a unified front supporting policies for energy independence gets hardly any buzz at all.
As a key to addressing huge problems, like middle east entanglement, rising gas prices, air pollution, out -of-control military spending and global warming, energy independence is a highly popular goal, according to the most recent polls. A poll released last year by Foreign Affairs magazine found nearly 90 percent of respondents agreed that “the lack of energy independence jeopardizes national security.” The poll indicated that 48 percent say “the United States deserves a “D” or “F” for its efforts on energy dependence.”
Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have similar positions on this issue, nicely encapsulated in non-candidate (thus far) Wesley Clark’s web page as one of the three most important issues:

We must put a policy in place to lead us to energy independence and away from the volatile and conflict-ridden regions where, today, the “geostrategic risk premium” is adding billions of dollars to the costs imposed on the American people. Our reliance on oil also impacts global climate change. As I have stated before, global warming has serious national security risks: stretching our military resources to deal with catastrophes (like Katrina) and increasing the potential for conflicts due to the displacement of people, competition for scarce resources, and adverse effects on agriculture

Because most Dems are in general agreement about measures to promote energy independence, there is an enormous opportunity for the candidates to get behind a unified statement that will define Dems as the Party of hope, in stark contrast to the GOP’s lack of a credible policy for energy independence.
Senate Democrats are supporting a modest “Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Initiative” a package to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels a day in 2020—or 40 percent of America’s projected imports (See here for more about the plan). Not a bad start, but voters might be more receptive to a speedier timetable, perhaps a more dramatic “Manhattan project” style crash-program.
It shouldn’t be all that hard for Dem candidates to unite around a common agenda that includes tougher CAFE standards, more investment in mass rail transit, increased tax credits for hybrid cars, alternative energy development — an energy independence package that benefits Dem candidates and strengthens the party’s image.

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