Do we need “Post-Partisan Power”?

Michael Giberson

Last week scholars from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institutions, and the Breakthrough Institute joined together to release “Post-Partisan Power,” (more here) a paper advocating substantial increases in federal spending on energy research and development in pursuit of goals including American economic growth, national security, and health and safety.

They lost me at “partisan.” Well, almost. But it seems like a fundamental mistake to define one’s vision for reforming the energy economy primarily by relation to party politics. Maybe I’m out of touch with real world politics in which key players pull the right levers and actually get things done in these trying times for Americans, or something like that.

And if anything, “post-partisan” seems worse than partisan.  It is an attempt to sound high minded, in a “let’s rise above the fray” sort of way, but it signals a policy too weak to survive ordinary open political competition so they attempt to bypass the ugly business of politicking. THEM: “Let’s put aside our petty partisan bickering and just do it our way.” ME: “But why not put aside our petty partisan bickering and just do it my way?” THEM: “There you go again with your petty partisan bickering. Put that aside and let’s just do it our way.” ME: “???”

Maybe I’m too wound up in the title. It’s just a title after all. Let’s go to the paper.

First sentence: “American energy policy is at a standstill.”

Wait, what? CAFE standards are rising, the EPA just issued new ethanol policies and some ethanol policies are set for (beneficial) expiration at the end of the year, Cash for Clunkers has come and gone, offshore oil and gas development regulations are changing, several states are exploring cap-and-trade policies on greenhouse gas emissions, many states have renewable power mandates, we have extensive Production Tax Credits for renewable power, and recently allowed Investment Tax Credits and cash grants in lieu of tax credits for renewable power, we still have a U.S. military presence in Iraq, and we haven’t finished implementing all of the energy policy programs contained in the first stimulus package passed in 2009. Heck, I suspect we haven’t finished implementing all of the programs in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

I suspect they are using the term “standstill” to mean “so far our favored approach isn’t going anywhere.”

Okay, I’m ranting not analyzing. But maybe now that I’ve got this rant out of my system, I’ll be able to return to “Post-Partisan Power” with a fresh eye and an open mind. Maybe I’ll be able to get past the first sentence before I dismiss the whole effort. Maybe, but it will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime, if you want more substantive criticism of the article, try Dan Cole’s post at Law, Economics, and Cycling. Alternatively, if you’d rather have some less substantive commentary on “Post-partisan power,” try David Leonhardt’s column in the New York Times.