Disastrous might be the more precise term if America’s energy, economic, and national-security policies boil down to this: waiting for the development of new, improved batteries that can be used in electric vehicles which we hope will replace the existing fleet of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines, thereby reducing the funding we are providing to our sworn enemies at some point in the future. That’s like dealing with a house on fire by waiting for a blizzard.
As part of this hope-for-change policy, the Obama administration also has been stalling on approvals for the Keystone pipeline, a privately funded project that will bring oil to the U.S. from the tar sands of western Canada, creating 20,000 jobs with no taxpayer money.
And the White House has spent no political capital pushing for a minor and inexpensive modification of new automobiles that would allow motorists to fill their tanks not only with gasoline but with a variety of liquid fuels — including methanol, which can be made from natural gas, coal, urban garbage, and agricultural and forestry waste, as well as ethanol, which can be made from sugarcane and many other crops that can be grown not just in American but in parts of the developing world (where little development is currently taking place).
Which of these energy sources can best reinvigorate the economy and enhance America’s security? All of the above: Let a thousand offshore oil rigs bloom, let a thousand distilleries turn waste into fuels, let horizontal drillers drill and frackers frack, let entrepreneurs gamble and consumers choose, let a freer market pick winners and losers — without subsidies or tariffs.
The alternative is to continue waiting and watching as rising oil and gas prices hobble job creation and economic growth. The alternative is to continue sending trillions of dollars to mullahs, sheikhs, and caudillos who decide how much to spend on terrorist groups and, in the case of Iran, nuclear-weapons development.
Making policy is challenging when progress on one front means losing ground on another. But right now a single set of policies could strengthen us economically and make us more secure. What we need are leaders willing to demonstrate that Khomeini was wrong: Americans can do a damned thing.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.