The Washington Times - August 6, 2008, 06:59PM

The big mistake I see made by most participants in the energy debate is the assumption that there’s just one solution. Drilling ANWR won’t completely reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I haven’t heard anyone say that it would. But any oil America doesn’t have to buy from Saudi Arabia is a bonus. Filling your tires properly isn’t the be-all energy solution, but it prevents your car from overworking and wasting gas. Corn-based ethanol helps reduce the need for foreign oil, but comes with some ethical baggage — burning food to fuel cars. Which wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it were free-market and not mandatory.

$4.00/gallon gas has made people nervous. It’s changed consumption patterns and, some say, has even saved lives. And for the first time in 30 years it has Americans talking seriously about energy costs. Both presidential candidates now support offshore drilling in principle. T. Boone Pickens is investing billions of dollars in wind energy, which he believes could reduce American dependence on foreign oil by one-third over the next decade. Newt Gingrich’s idea to “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less” is no longer just a bumper sticker slogan, but sound energy policy.

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The energy issue is too important to punish either presidential candidate for their support for stop-gap measures, be they tire-filling or offshore drilling, so long as those measures aren’t the entire basis of their plans. America deserves a real energy debate. But just because we want and need a comprehensive energy plan doesn’t mean we should cut down stop-gap solutions in favor of The One True Solution That Doesn’t Yet Exist.

Compare energy plans and see which one is for you (McCain’s is here; Obama’s here). When you do, you’ll see more similarities than differences. Both candidates support a cap-and-trade system for carbon — despite the lack of a suitable replacement. Both support offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan. Of the two, McCain’s is far more “comprehensive,” and Obama’s is based on the consumer absorbing high costs while others work away for The Solution.

But as Barack Obama said in a Lansing speech before Michigan business and political leaders, “we shouldn’t allow the Perfect to be the enemy of the Good.” Just because an idea isn’t the solution doesn’t diminish its value as a solution. ANWR, Ethanol, and tire-pumping aren’t the answer, but they move us closer to energy independence than sitting on our hands and hoping that someone, someday, comes along with the real answer.

— James David Dickson