What Someone Needs to Ask the Presidential Candidates

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"Energy is the catalyst of economic progress in America. What is each candidate's long-term energy plan to provide stability and predictability for Americans' budgets and to maintain economic growth over the next four decades?"

Kent Moors is in Europe this week, advising on oil supply concerns in cash-strapped nations.

And it's getting serious over there.

As he noted on Fox Business last week, Greece imports nearly 30% of its oil from Iran, and the country needs fuel in order to keep its economy moving in these uncertain times.

I don't think our leaders or media say this enough, but energy is the catalyst of economic growth and human progression. And a lack of reliable fuel sources will only make this teetering European economy even more susceptible to its ongoing debt woes.

The last 100 years of prosperity in the U.S. was not driven by abstract ideals like the "American spirit."

Cheap, efficient energy sources fueled our growing global economy. They were an underlying driver of a population boom and expansion across the continent. Without them, we wouldn't have our highways, sprawling suburbs or supporting infrastructure that has made this country so unique.

But the days of cheap oil are fading fast. Production costs are rising as we shift toward unconventional oil fields and tight gas formations for our sources.

So, once again, we're looking to alternative forms of energy.

As Brent and WTI prices continue to accelerate, it would appear that now is the best time for nations to begin investing in alternative technologies and developing a long-term energy policy.

But Europe has placed an immense amount of blind faith in massive solar projects in the Sahara desert and unstable northern African nations split by civil war.

Meanwhile, the United States remains mired in green scandals and policy indecision.

And then, there's that other problem.

There simply isn't enough money to go around anymore.

President Obama recently said "there isn't a silver bullet for high gas prices," while touting the need for this nation to wean itself off foreign oil.

But presidential speeches dating back to Nixon have seemed to propose a new silver bullet all while carrying this similar theme of American development and resource potential.

It's incredible. Take a look. . .

In 2006, President Bush stated we could "move beyond a petroleum based economy." In 2000, President Clinton demanded a "long-term energy strategy to maximize conservation and maximize the development of alternative sources of energy."

In 1988, the first President Bush argued, "there is no security for the United States in further dependence in foreign oil." President Reagan promised in 1981 to place a greater emphasis on "research of alternative resources."

In 1979, President Carter proposed the idea of moving toward "strict conservation and to the renewed use of coal and to permanent renewable energy sources like solar power."

In 1975, President Ford promised the energy "independence we want." The year prior, President Nixon assured we would "break the back of the energy crisis" and "meet America's energy needs from America's own resources."

Forty years later, we are no closer to having a long-term solution to this elephant in the room.

Once again, the president is returning to similar prose and new ideas. From solar and wind projects touted in 2009, to the recent focus on algae as a solution, this "all-of-the-above" approach doesn't seem to have any firm structure.

It does, however, assure that public tax dollars will more visceral words, like will be spent cover the ongoing research of these technologies.

Many Americans remain skeptical regarding renewable technologies and the companies involved.

And with good reason.

The recent collapses of Solyndra, Beacon Power Corporation and Ener1 have been highlighted by political tomfoolery, wretched risk analysis, and downright recklessness when it came to the use of federal dollars and allowing bonus payments to failed executives.

But this isn't just the result of crony capitalism or financial malpractice.

It's really this country's lack of an energy strategy.

The U.S. government formed the Department of Energy in order to consolidate energy policy and provide solutions to the ongoing challenges of energy development. Then, agency leaders apparently forgot about coming up with that plan. Instead, they expanded to more than 100,000 employees and a $24 billion budget and got hard to work on determining what sort of light bulbs Americans should use.

With our cheap, conventional sources tapped around the world, it's time for the United States to get real about its energy future.

Americans remain nervous about the direction of the nation, and the political sideshows regarding "who said what about who" has distracted from the real issues. Perhaps misdirection is the plan, but eventually this political game will have its economic consequences.

The very idea of $5 gasoline in 2000 seemed laughable, and certain members of Congress argued that even if we began developing new energy fields here in the United States, that supply wouldn't have come online for a decade.

Well, here we are. Ten years later, and no closer to a solution.

Instead, we're only being offered short-term solutions like opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or increasing regulations and taxes to pay for alternative programs.

It's time to get serious.

It is my hope that the mainstream media asks just one question this election cycle. In fact, they can use this version, free of charge, so long as it's asked directly when the debates begin.

"Energy is the catalyst of economic progress in America. What is your long-term energy plan to provide stability and predictability for Americans' budgets and to maintain economic growth over the next four decades?"

This is a very simple question—one that doesn't require a complex answer.

But if the candidates stammer, deflect, spin, shift blame, or fall back on the premise that throwing money at the problem is the most viable solution. . .

Then it's time to find new candidates and a new direction.

Sincerely, James

James Baldwin, Money Morning

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