This is a guest post by my occasional contributor Mano:
A letter of advice to Presidential Hopefuls McCain and Obama
Many of us watched the Obama-McCain first debate on Friday, September 26th. And I believe that most of us had a feeling that none of the candidates achieved a real knockout. In this letter I want to give the candidates a little advice.
This first debate between the two final contenders was mainly on foreign policy. But as Jim Lehrer indicated in the opening note, the economy and foreign policy are tightly linked. I totally agree. But I also know that neither of you is an expert in economy or energy. I expected McCain, with his experience and expertise in foreign policy, to show better strategic savvy. But instead of strategy what I heard was a collection of tactics at best. Even the tactics were sometimes obscure.
So here’s how I would start if I were either McCain and Obama at this point in our modern history, and from a view of 30,000 foot height - after all, you two are running for the president of the most powerful country on earth. But since you’re talking to the average person, you must be very clear, straightforward and use simple terms.
America has certain strengths to be proud of. It is a solid democracy, it has a free economy, it has technological leadership in many fields and it has a set of very strong and important values.
The US economy, foreign policy and energy policy are tightly linked to each other. The US cannot be strong outside if it is weak inside. The dependency on foreign energy sources, oftentimes controlled by unpredictable dictators (Putin, Chavez, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad and alike), punches a big hole in the American shield. Unfortunately, the current administration was not wise enough to foresee what was coming, and now we have a huge problem we need to fix. So this is my strategy:
1. Resolve America’s energy problem towards independence. The problem cannot be resolved overnight, and the solution is not homogeneous. We need to provide a relatively short term solution, while starting (or rather continuing) with the longer term solution.
2. We all like to see now green energy, green cars, etc., but unfortunately the technology is not yet available. Therefore, in the short term we should mitigate the risk by off-shore drilling and nuclear energy.
3. In parallel, we should pour billions of dollars as incentives to develop alternative energy technologies. That is to say, hydrogen-powered vehicles, wind and solar energies, to name a few.
4. Alternative sources of energy, as mentioned above, are abundant on earth. The availability of alternative energy sources is not the problem, but the storage of the energy is the real problem. Energy generated by wind or the sun have to be consumed real-time, or they are lost by being converted to heat. Presently, there is no good way to store massive amounts of useful energy (e.g. electricity) economically and efficiently. So we need to pour billions in the development of technologies to efficiently store electricity and hydrogen. Then we can largely use sources such as wind and solar power.
5. In the meantime, ask Americans to conserve energy, and create Federal programs in this direction. For instance, provide an incentive to buyers of fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids. The incentive will be across the country in the form of tax exemption, tax rebate or alike.
6. If we’re successful in developing the above, America will achieve energy independence and lead the world in the next technology boom. This will benefit us in many ways. We’ll export these technologies and our economy will grow. Jobs will be created and America will become stronger from inside. We’ll reduce our debt and have sufficient funds to support national health care and other social initiatives.
7. We’ll lead the world in green energy and show the way to reduction of carbon emissions.
8. Alternative energy technologies, our internal strength and independence from oil imported from rogue countries and leaders, will make us stronger outside, and will significantly weaken the petro countries. We’ll be able to shape our foreign policy more easily and efficiently. Then we can shift from the use of power on the ground to the use of deterrence. We’ll be able to more easily mitigate adversaries such as world terrorism.
This is the kind of vision I expect from the next president of the US and the primary leader of the world. The rest is details.