Early in Tuesday’s presidential debate, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got off on a tangent that wanted to be a discussion of energy policy. Instead, it was a mess. Arguments were mangled and facts were pushed over into a corner somewhere.
As they tried to out-coal and out-natural gas one another, neither candidate was particularly impressive. Their allegiance to fossil fuels was depressing. But there was something else bugging me, and I’ve since pinpointed what it was: neither candidate talked in any meaningful way about energy conservation.
Sure, at one point Obama brought up the new vehicle fuel efficiency standards his administration has put into place. If cars get more miles per gallon, they’ll burn less fuel. That’s good for the environment and good for consumers, who should pay less in fuel costs.
But that was it. Neither Obama nor Romney offered any other ideas for reducing energy or fuel consumption. That’s a shame since the cleanest, cheapest energy is energy that isn’t generated or consumed in the first place. And it's an area full of possibilities, from energy consumption standards for home appliances to investing in research that would lead to more efficient power plants.
At this point, I don’t have any great hope that the candidates will talk about energy conservation and efficiency initiatives. But since the president would have to work with Congress on that issue anyway, people can pressure their senators and House representatives to make those issues priorities.