Come Jan. 20, it will be President Barack Obama, as American voters decisively elected the Illinois senator to be the 44th president.
For green voters, it marked a choice between Obama, whose $150 billion energy policy would transfer subsidies from oil and gas to renewable energy technology and conservation, and John McCain, whose campaign relentlessly promoted more domestic oil and gas drilling, as well as nuclear power. (During the campaign Obama also expressed support for the dirtiest of fossil fuels, coal, though so-called "clean coal" technology is some years or decades from widespread use; and he was more supportive of corn-based ethanol than was McCain, despite that environmentalists see the alternative fuel as causing more problems than it solves.)
But analysts have been warning for weeks that the president-elect is likely to scale-back many plans, given the government's mounting debt and obligations embodied most starkly by the recent $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.
The economy was the most important issue to six out of every 10 voters, according to widely cited exit polling data. The New York Times notes that only 7% of voters -- Republican or Democrat -- cited energy as the top concern, when offered a choice.
But most of the top concerns of voters -- the economy, the war in Iraq and terrorism -- are tied to energy. Obama's gift for inspiring the country could be put to no better purpose than rallying Americans to leave oil and its despots behind, in favor of American-made renewable energy technology.
It's a vision that has been outlined in increasing detail by a number of economists and environmentalists, perhaps most convincingly by Thomas Friedman, whose Flat, Hot and Crowded explains how critical America's energy choices today will be to its future as a world power.
Obama will take office with large, though not necessarily filibuster-proof, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate (some races are still too close to call). That should give him a good chance of seeing a healthy portion of his energy policy enacted -- if he makes it a priority.
He is expected to name people to his cabinet within weeks, if not days, and he could get more involved in pre-inauguration policy-making than is typical. Most expect the economy to be his first concern, but infrastructure spending -- including on energy infrastructure -- could well be a piece of any financial plan.
There's an incredible energy surrounding Obama, and he's inspired incredible energy among the voters who not only pulled levers and touched screens but poured out into the streets on election day. Now, it will be up to Obama to channel that enthusiasm and hunger in ways that not only rescue the economy and end the war in Iraq, as he has promised to do, but to make good on his pledge to boldly combat global warming.
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