Energy independence has been a staple of American presidential politics since the early 1980s, a hot button issue that nevertheless hasn't triggered the vitriolic level of discord between the two parties typical of other important (and not so important) issues. High-wire fights over drilling and cap-and-trade notwithstanding, both parties are generally rowing in the same direction on energy independence and efficiency.
Over the past month both parties have embraced the "all-of-the-above" approach, a pragmatic view of energy issues, recognizing that the shift to renewable energy will be a longer slog than optimists thought. At a panel during the Democratic National Convention yesterday, Howard Dean, former Democratic Governor of Vermont and a one-time presidential contender himself acknowledged what Democrats have reluctantly embraced: The country and the economy is dependent on non-renewable energy sources and will be for a long time. "We're going to need petroleum for the foreseeable future," Dean said.
Still, it's a good idea for the government to push the country in the direction of non-renewable energy as much as is practicable, Dean said. "I do think there are some reasons to spread out the use of this stuff and to minimize carbon footprint."
One barrier to the shift to renewable energy sources, or to lowering energy consumption, is that to most consumers "energy is boring," according to Art Lasky, President and Founder of consumer energy management company Opower, speaking on a separate panel at the DNC yesterday. Although "90% of people at this convention and elsewhere would say saving money is important...the only time you think about energy in the home is when the power is out," he said, noting that research shows the average customer spends only six minutes per year actively engaged with their energy utility.
If that's the case, will Obama push energy issues high on his reelection agenda and will we hear much about energy in tonight's speech? According to some sources, Obama plans to promote his track record on energy issues tonight, pointing to reduced oil imports, improved vehicle efficiency and more renewable energy generation.
In his now-revered nominating speech, Bill Clinton mentioned but only touched on energy, praising Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy. It's possible that because both parties seem to agree on the big points, or that most people think the topic is boring, that energy isn't a big issue this election season that will sway voters one way or the other.