There is little right with Washington these days. Whether it’s the endless debt negotiations, the health care debate that continues to this day and the constant building up and tearing down of candidates, it’s not surprising that approval ratings for those who work on Capitol Hill is so low.
The atmosphere in Washington has created a constant “us-against-them” scenario where every idea, thought or message is categorized into something that people must be for or against. Pick your issue — energy policy, healthcare, defense — it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that no matter the issue, those who are for it and those who are against it have to stake out territory and come up with ammo to hurl at the other side, which makes everyone dig into for trench warfare. What we have now is the political equivalent of World War I in Washington, where everyone is stuck in their ways and the people back home are left tending to their immediate challenges and asking themselves, “What's going on over there?”
When it comes to energy discussions, the general public has come together to at least say they want domestic, clean energy. Polls show this. But in today’s Washington. what the people think means little unless they are willing to get into the trenches. The result has been a complete lack of energy policy. The American people have been left with few good choices. On the left we have seen attacks on the fossil fuel industry, the proposal and failure of cap-and-trade, and taxpayer-funded incentives to spur the young renewable industry. From the trenches on the right we have seen an orchestrated assault on science, the emergence of heavily funded polluters who discredit well-meaning politicians and purchased the votes of politicians who have long forgotten the constituents who elected them. This is life in Washington.
Bill Clinton once said he was able to defeat President George H.W. Bush and then Sen. Bob Dole for the presidency because he said, “our ideas were better.” Now we need ideas, and they need to be good. And they can’t just be from the left and they can’t just be from the right.
"Drill, baby, drill" is not an idea America should be proud of, and neither is the idea that any source of energy that emits a single unit of carbon should be demonized. Let’s remember that the idea of cap-and-trade came from Republicans. The Environmental Protection Agency came from President Richard Nixon. Let’s also remember that energy efficiency, emphasizing savings and conserving resources, came from left-leaning politicians who wanted to be smarter during our war efforts against the Germans and Japanese. Each party has plenty to be proud of when it comes to moving our nation forward with ideas, but no party has a monopoly on ideas.
Now we need ideas from both sides — because the planet is not a one-party system. It’s time to stop digging trenches. It’s time to remember that we have two ears and one mouth. Let’s listen twice as much as we talk. Let’s support good ideas, and when someone has a bad one, let’s scrutinize the idea, but not the person who came up with it. When it comes to energy in this country, the next great accomplishment won’t come from a talking points memo, a focus group or a partisan think tank. The ideas that will shape this nation’s energy future will come from outside Washington and have impacts throughout our planet. All we need our leaders to do is to stop digging, come out of the trenches and listen.
It’s about ideas, America. No one comes up with better ones than we do.