But President Obama is well positioned to begin this journey by exerting the kind of leadership he campaigned on — disarming polarizing voices and building from the core.
As I wrote over the weekend, here and in a collection of Op-Ed pieces on the president’s State of the Union options, on Tuesday Obama can cast the quest for an energy menu that works for the long haul as the new American imperative.
He and his cabinet can initiate a “listening tour” in place of the usual speaking tour, aimed at revealing the many points of accord on energy policy hidden behind surface discord.
(The administration has done this with Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Now, on a grander scale, it’s energy’s year.)
As I asked on Sunday, if he does this, and the Obama Energy Road Show came to your town, what would you say?
Below, you can read “Obama moment” statements on energy from industry representatives to climate campaigners, scientists to investors.
The goal, to my mind, can be to build the foundations of an energy system sufficient to meet human needs, with limited environmental costs, as the world heads toward and beyond a mid-century crest of some 9 billion people seeking decent lives.
A range of studies has concluded bluntly that business as usual won’t come close.
When President John F. Kennedy announced plans to send men to the Moon, it was not because people were marching with signs demanding a space race.
There were a host of reasons – strategic, economic, military, visionary and more. Kennedy wove them into a comprehensive, challenging and extraordinarily productive technological journey. (Here’s more on Kennedy’s space initiative.)
A similar multifaceted logic holds now.
Obama can echo the late chemistry Nobel laureate Richard Smalley, who – even as he fought cancer in his last years — crisscrossed America describing the opportunities attending a push to expand the world’s energy menu.
Smalley argued that only an energy quest could simultaneously address nearly all of the challenges attending humanity’s growth spurt.
This is not the only element required to mesh human aspirations with life on a finite planet. An examination of values, of what is enough, of what constitutes “the good life” ( think Plato vs. Vegas) will likely be needed, as well.By ANDREW C. REVKIN/NYT