It's not often that I find myself agreeing with knee-jerk liberal Hollywood pretty boys like Robert Redford, but the aging matinee idol had an editorial published in the Los Angeles Times this week that made some pretty valid points. The gist of Bob's thought-provoking (if somewhat bombastic) essay was that President Bush's energy policies, which would perpetuate America's near total reliance on fossil fuels for our energy needs for the foreseeable future, are shortsighted and counter-productive to his efforts to strengthen homeland security.
Of course, Redford is not the first person to point out the benefits to both the environment and to our political predicament if we could wean ourselves from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, but he made his points with a flair and bravado that one would expect from a man who has spent so much time performing on stage and screen.
Bob says that our president "talks tough on military matters in the Middle East while remaining virtually silent about the long-term problems posed by U.S. dependence on fossil fuels." He goes on to add that the Bush energy policy, which he colorfully describes as "a military garrison in the Middle East and drilling for oil in the Arctic and other fragile habitats," is in serious need of an overhaul.
For the most part I agree. Although the jury is still out in some peoples' minds about whether the use of fossil fuels is really playing a major part in global warming, there is no denying that they produce dirty, foul-smelling, unhealthy byproducts when they are burned, and I haven't heard anyone come up with a reasonable argument to suggest that the health of the planet is not harmed to at least some extent through their continued use.
The political situation is not quite as clear cut, but it seems likely that an unacceptable portion of the money that has enriched aristocrats in countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia has found its way into evil hands, and I suspect that America and the rest of the world would be much better off if that money were spent elsewhere.
So what are the chances that Robert Redford will cause President Bush to seriously rethink his failure to emphasize renewable sources of power in his energy policy?
Well, let's see. Both the president and the vice president made a fortune in the oil business, and the fossil fuel industry contributes obscene amounts of money to the Republican Party each year. So I'd say the probability that President Bush will amend his energy policy to include a plan to reduce fossil fuel consumption is about the same as the probability that we will see Robert Redford co-star with a woman who is actually close to his own age in his next romantic comedy. (Not very likely, in other words.)
Let's face it - renewable energy is simply not a Republican issue, and while we have a GOP-controlled White House and Congress, we aren't likely to have even a healthy debate on the issue in Washington. And that's a shame.
Democrats are still trying to get back on their feet after the thumping they took last month, and I think a well-thought-out plan to reduce our fossil fuel consumption would be a solid issue for them to present to the voters in 2004.
Of course, to come up with such a plan would require backbone, creativity and vision, and the person who presents the plan to voters must be able to communicate clearly without annoying us to death. What Democrats need is a little less Al Gore, and a little more Bob Redford.