Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ronald Brownstein on Washington's Energy Policy Paralysis

I've enjoyed reading Ronald Brownstein's "Washington Outlook" column for years. I don't always agree with him, but I like his style -- particularly his vast knowledge of politics and policy, his analytical rigor, pragmatic approach, and the evenhandedness of his essays. He's got a good piece in today's Los Angeles Times, discussing the years-long Washington stalemate in energy policy reform. Says Brownstein: "The energy debate stands as a prime example of Washington's deteriorating capacity to meaningfully confront problems." He notes that reform needs a comprehensive solution focusing on increasing oil supply domestically, increasing conservation, and shifting toward more environmentally-friendly sources of (cleaner, renewable) energy. As for the parties, Brownstein says that the Democrats love attacking tax breaks to oil companies, who are swimming in corporate profits, but they won't take on the automotive unions at the Big Three auto manufacturers. Republicans, for their part, love oil and gas company campaign contributions and are ideologically opposed to raising corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. So most likely for Brownstein, "energy policy will remain stuck in neutral until both parties confront their supporters to construct a grand bargain of more domestic production, greater conservation and more focus on alternative energy."

This piece provides a great example of Theodore Lowi's "hyperpluralist" theory of American politics:

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