This debate over oil and energy policy disgusts me because both Obama and McCain are trying to force short term, knee jerk responses to a major policy challenge for the nation.
To get the price of oil down, candidates should work harder at thinking through what the characteristics of a new equilibrium in the Middle East and globally might look like. What kind of deal can be done with Iran that preserves Israeli security, Iran’s domestic energy interests, and does not leave Iran with a domestic capacity to covertly manufacture nuclear weapons? There’s much that can be done.
Elizabeth Kolbert agrees in The New Yorker with the futility of the short term strategy:
A D.O.E. report issued last year predicted that it would take two decades for drilling in restricted areas to have a noticeable effect on domestic production, and that, even then, “because oil prices are determined on the international market,” the impact on fuel costs would be “insignificant.”
Of course Kolbert also believe that decreasing the price of oil at this point wouldn’t be a positive thing:
If the hard truth is that the federal government can’t do much to lower gas prices, the really hard truth is that it shouldn’t try to. With just five per cent of the world’s population, America accounts for twenty-five per cent of its oil use. This disproportionate consumption is one of the main reasons that the United States–until this year, when China overtook it–was the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Regardless of where you stand on her latter argument, it’s pretty difficult to argue that the candidates shouldn’t be focusing on longer-term strategies, if for no other reason than “a new equilibrium in the Middle East and globally” sounds like a pretty good thing.