RNC to America: It's the energy crisis, stupid

If there’s one defining moment from this year’s RNC, it likely won’t be Sarah Palin’s redemptive lipstick-on-a-pit-bull speechifying, Bristol and Levi awkwardly holding hands, or even John McCain’s acceptance of his party’s nomination. Instead, it’ll be the sight of an arena full of Republicans chanting over and over: “Drill, baby, drill!” 

The chant, which was introduced by GOPAC chair Michael Steele and reached a crescendo during Rudy Giuliani’s warm-up act last night, is an indication of how Republicans will try to shape the remainder of the presidential race: by turning this into an energy election, and presenting unfettered off-shore drilling as a single sufficient solution to America’s energy crisis.

It’s not a bad electoral strategy. The GOP will seek to cast its renewed focus on energy as a hard-headed “daddy party” alternative to left-wing environmental handwringing; the problem, they’ll argue, isn’t polar bears and beluga whales - it’s gas prices and our over-reliance on foreign oil. That line of attack will give Republicans a chance to frame the energy debate as a debate over both the economy and national security - without getting bogged down in messy discussions of the economic mismanagement and foreign-policy fiascos of the last eight years.  

Of course, the biggest drawback to the Republicans’ drill-here-drill-now sloganeering is that off-shore drilling would achieve next to nothing. There isn’t enough oil beneath our feet - or off our coastline - to slake America’s thirst for oil; even if there were, new drilling operations would take years or decades to bring online. 

And John McCain’s taste for drilling also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding—or, worse, a cynical misrepresentation—of the nature of the oil market. Energy is a global commodity, and the price at the pump reflects global shortages and bottlenecks. American oil production will only ever be a drop in a global bucket, and as such it’ll make little or no difference to global—or local—oil and gas prices.  

As this week’s convention has demonstrated, that doesn’t matter much to John McCain. By running with Sarah Palin—a pro-oil hockey mom who can’t get her head around the hockey-stick graph—McCain has completed his personal transition from ahead-of-the-curve climate maverick to Big Oil cheerleader, more concerned with getting elected than with fixing America’s energy crisis or correcting her dependence on foreign oil. 

Last night’s amateur dramatics probably went some way towards putting the Republican presidential campaign back on track, but they offered nothing for greens, and nothing for the average American’s pocketbook. Nothing; nada; nil, baby, nil.