Sarah Palin seems to be fashioning a new role for her post-gubernatorial life as a pundit and political stumper on energy issues.
Energy has been a consistent theme for Palin, since she emerged on the national stage as Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running-mate. That failed White House bid was marked by discordant tones: on the one hand, McCain had been an early champion of carbon cap-and-trade legislation, and he talked frankly about the threat of global warming; on the other, the ticket's policy was "drill, baby, drill."
Palin, sitting in oil and gas-rich Alaska, has always been a proponent of fossil fuel energy. She just calls it clean and leaves it at that. She doesn't mention global warming or climate change or even carbon emissions, as if not mentioning them makes disappear. (One wishes that we had that power over politicians' hot air.)
It's a round hole-square peg problem, only she doesn't even seem to recognize the problem is a hole. She's got a solution, damn it, and she wants to ram it in there.
She exhibited this tendency first and most firmly in her debut energy policy speech, a 2,585-word exposition that didn't mention once mention global warming. She further showed off her disdain for climate science and environmental concerns in those television interviews.
She's back, today, with an op-ed in the Washington Post that raises alarms about the economic catastrophe she envisions from tackling the environmental catastrophe that global warming will unleash on life as we know it. Not that she says that.
She calls President Obama's energy plan, which passed the House, a "cap-and-trade energy tax" plan or a "cap-and-tax" plan without noting that there isn't a direct carbon tax (though many sober-headed economists and environmentalists prefer it), and without mentioning what we're capping and trading (carbon), or why (heading off a global warming catastrophe). She mentions protecting the environment, but in a vague way that doesn't connect any cause-and-effect dots. (Andrew Sullivan almost kindly notes that Sarah Palin Doesn't Understand Cap and Trade, and then goes on to skewer her apparent ignorance of the climate problem and of economics.)
Her main point, though, is economic. She talks about the rising cost of energy that is inevitable from a cap-and-trade plan, particularly to the poor, without noting that the plan that passed the House is designed to return the money to the neediest in the form of tax credits.
More persuasive is her concern about jobs in the fossil fuel industry. It's inevitable that switching energy sources will mean fewer jobs in fossil fuels and more in alternative and renewable fuels. Some people won't be up for the transition. But really, tell it to the blacksmith, dutifully pounding out his last horseshoe as he watches the first Model T drive through town. Certainly, as Americans we're far more comfortable with a purely consumer-driven technological change (iPhones for everyone!) but consumers are ill-equipped to deal with the problem of climate change on their own. If you haven't noticed, the environmental metaphor of the moment has shifted from the canary in the coal mine (may it rest in peace) to the bullfrog in boiling water.
If Sarah Palin were a bullfrog, she'd be drilling for oil at the bottom of the pan, while she cooked. If we're the bullfrogs (and we are) I don't think we want her hand on the stove's knob.
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