In the President's State of the Union speech last night, between the usual State of the Union laundry list of well-intentioned promises in the first half to the depressingly familiar obsession with terrorism and war in the second, there was one genuinely newsworthy moment. It was an historic moment, in fact. George W. Bush set the country the goal of reducing oil consumption by twenty percent in the next ten years.
I know, beware. What does he mean exactly? He's trying to lull us into thinking he's on the right page with energy policy, he's sneaky and persistant, don't trust. True enough. But making such an ambitious statement reflects both the degree to which public opinion now forces him to act and, possibly, a real opinion shift in the man. Remember these are the people who cut off alternative fuel research during the first week of their administration. This is the administration that abolished the National Biological Survey. The personal fortunes of the President and Vice-President are oil money. The "alternative fuel" research agenda of the Republicans is scamulous, with its emphasis on ethanol marketing (pork) and hydrogen cells (remote). But last night we saw the dawn of the day that all governments will have to pursue sound energy and environmental policy as a matter of simple necessity. A new age.