Barack Obama is setting his course in a radical new direction.
As he takes office on January 20th, he'll be holding most of the cards of his "New Deal" close to his vest. We aren't sure what his program will actually look like. But we do know that the issues of global climate change, North America's energy future and international security are on the table.
While each of these issues has been part of the political discussion for many years, my sense is that this will be the first time that ALL of them will be unified by a single major policy maker who has a popular mandate to take action. The resulting period of change could be deep and long lasting.
The political risks are equally large. Attempts to form policy on the incremental issues have failed internationally. Technical, Economic and Ideological limitations have doomed previous attempts to deal with climate and energy issues. That's why I believe that this is the moment for sweeping change. President Elect Obama has made cabinet appointments that show he is preparing to seize the moment. Green energy will finally get a green light.
When Canada's Liberal Leader, Stephan Dion, ran for Premier last Fall, he did so on an agenda that included sweeping reform to reduce Canada's carbon emissions. He must have believed that Canadians in general support high environmental standards and would therefore support his plan. It didn't work out that way. Voters sensed economic panic and couldn't quite fathom how his complicated carbon tax would deliver positive results. There was another problem. Canada is now one of the largest petroleum exporting countries in the world. One hand simply doesn't wash the other.
President Bush also dealt with the questions of sustainable energy, security and the environment in a piecemeal fashion. The result was a sidestep of the Kyoto protocol and the deployment of about a third of Americas' military assets to the Middle East. We have ground troops throughout the region and at least 1 Navy Carrier group in the Persian Gulf at all times. All to guarantee the status quo in global energy markets. The argument for this policy is based on the ideology that government doesn't provide for people, private enterprise does. Therefore, the government should protect private enterprise.
Obama seems to have a very different outlook. He realizes that we don't have to deploy our military to protect a pipeline that sucks oil at one end and our wealth at the other, IF we can develop a sustainable, secure domestic energy industry AND reduce our greenhouse emissions while boosting our economy. He's going to hire the private sector to deliver a tri-fecta.
Some people here in the States are screaming that the Obama plan is socialist. These same people saw no problem with starting a war and then funding private enterprise to run it with no bid contracts. Haliburton was hired on a blank check mission because it was,"the only company big enough to handle the job". Conservatives and Libertarians are now demanding that there be a "market based solution" to the problem. Well frankly, at this time there is no private or international entity who can meet our need for increasing domestic energy supplies for the next 200 years. And there won't be unless we invest in our own interests.
Last week Vladimir Putin brought Europe to it's knees by shutting off one pipeline. If they didn't know it before, the EU knows now that it is vulnerable. On the current basis, NATO can't guarantee security or stability in Europe unless it intends to invade Russia. The whole global free trade initiative was trumped by the Russian gas company.
This "tweak" at NATO weakness and the conflicts that tie our hands in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. are just a few of the reasons that the table is set for Obama to orchestrate change.