Political Games

A good chess player sees several moves ahead and plans his attack accordingly. A good politician sees his or her upcoming election (and very little beyond) and plans accordingly. Obama is an astute politician, though he has been a disappointing President. He sees far enough ahead to know that rising gas prices will cost him votes in November, so he plans accordingly: he announces his “full support” of the Keystone XL pipeline and “boasted Thursday that drilling, baby, drilling was a key part of his overall energy strategy.” This according to a recent Yahoo News release. How sad.

One would have hoped that this President could see far enough ahead to realize that domestic drilling will lead to more oil spills and the destruction of more wilderness, not to lower gas prices — certainly not before November. Those gas prices do not depend on domestic oil supplies anyway. They depend on factors well beyond our control, like the demand for oil in China and India, or the uncertainty in the Middle East. But gas is predicted to cost $4.00 a gallon very soon and polls show that Americans favor the pipeline as it will mean American jobs — at a time when 40,000 jobs in the clean energy industry are on hold awaiting some sort of commitment from this President and the Congress to something besides the worn-out energy policies that keep us on the same old path of fossil fuel dependence. In any event, President Obama has decided which side his bread is buttered on.

Predictably, the president of the National Wildlife Federation condemned Obama’s announced continuance of worn-out policies, and not surprisingly the Republicans claim it is not enough. But the fact remains that this move is typical politics-as-usual and an example of the short-term thinking that has gotten us so far down the wrong path turned in the wrong direction. We need to look at alternative, clean energies and we need the government to put its full weight behind a new and different policy, one that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels and does not threaten more of the wilderness or lead to further oil spills and leaks. And the Keystone XL pipeline project is a mistake of the first order.

It will be interesting to see if Obama’s game plays out as he thinks it will, winning him some votes in November, or whether it will cost him enough votes from those of his supporters who hoped for a more enlightened energy policy from a man who said all the right things before he became President. It is a dangerous game, as he may lose the election. But not nearly as dangerous as the larger game of “drill, baby, drill” that sounds so familiar and increases the disillusionment of so many who hoped for more from this man. The larger game results inevitably in further destruction of the planet and increased oil dependence — a game we already know how to play, and one where everyone eventually loses.

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