Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Energy and Virginia politics

Does anyone else get the sense that Brian Moran will be the Democratic candidate for governor?

Yes, Terry McAuliffe has the money and the endorsement of Bill Clinton, but Brian Moran has the experience. More importantly, I feel, he's the exact ideological opposite of Bob McDonnell.

Consider the 2008 presidential election. The Democrats won by presenting a candidate who was the polar opposite of President Bush. Of course, John McCain is hardly Bush III, but the DNC spent hundreds of millions of dollars convincing the country that he was. Once Barack Obama had sealed the nomination, all he had to do was run left while McCain ran right.

Politics has become polarization, due to the DNC's recent strategy of anti-Bushism. McAuliffe, as former DNC head, may be an anti-Bush, but Moran is the anti-McDonnell. The energy debate makes that point about as clear as any other issue.

The Washington Post reported yesterday some of the energy policies espoused by the candidates for governor. Bob McDonnell, the article reports, wishes to drill for oil and natural gas 50 miles off the coastline, which would make Virginia the first state to drill on the eastern seaboard. Virginia would also be the first state to build a nuclear power plant in over a decade under a McDonnell administration (Lake Anna is the proposed site). The Democratic party will almost certainly cry foul over environmental issues, but you can expect the campaign to have experts lined up to testify to the advances made in safety precautions, for both the environment and for human beings. Certainly, no one wants a meltdown in the Commonwealth.

The Democratic candidates are divided on the energy issue, the Post reports. McAuliffe wants to explore for natural gas off the coast, but not oil. Both he and Creigh Deeds want to leave coal on the table, as long as it can be "cleanly" mined, as does McDonnell. Other alternatives, such as wind power (and even chicken manure) are "embraced" by all candidates.

Moran, though, opposes drilling of any kind off the coast, and even exploration. He opposes the coal plant in Surrey, and along with Deeds has not even taken contributions from oil- and natural gas-interested parties. The obvious comparison is McDonnell supports nuclear, oil, natural gas, clean coal, and wind, while Moran only supports wind.

There's a question, of course, as to how much the energy debate will shape the gubernatorial race. Once again, Virginia finds itself in a position to lead the nation in this area. The prospect of the Commonwealth becoming a main energy producer for the country, and possibly the world, is an attractive one, but many still oppose drilling as an outdated and environmentally unsound method of energy production. Nuclear, of course, is a daunting power source that not as many are so willing to promote.

This debate also directly affects the economy of Virginia. In the long run, obviously, energy production may potentially draw thousands of jobs. In the short run, it will create thousands more. The lessening of dependence on foreign energy will certainly benefit the entire nation; but again, the risks associated with these methods cannot be overlooked. They can, however, be overstated.

The two sides of the debate are sure to be well-articulated in the coming months by the candidates themselves: Bob McDonnell for the Republicans, and (I believe) Brian Moran for the Democrats.

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