I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people express gut support for green energy concerns but a completely scattershot conception of what the solutions might be. In particular, I worry about hearing this stuff from politicians. They may speak forcefully about the danger of oil, but the next paragraph is too often a grab bag of buzzwords: some combination of hybrids, ethanol, compact-florescent light bulbs, conservation, natural gas, bicycles, markets, clean coal, hydrogen, and either "moon shot" or "Apollo project."

That’s from the politicians that don’t have a horse in the race, anyway. From a Mike Sessions or a Chuck Grassley, you’ll hear nothing but laser-targeted energy advice — targeted toward projects that benefit financial interests in their states.

And that’s the rub: As long as the civic sphere offers no consistent alternative, money and provincialism win the day.

If the feds respond to energy concerns merely by shoveling subsidies at ethanol and nuclear power — without also pushing for energy efficiency, reducing subsidies to oil, taxing gas, discouraging sprawl, research (and deployment) of renewable energies, etc. — all we’ll have is another set of bloated, politically connected corporate interests on top of the ones already mucking up all attempts at progress. Nothing will substitute for a good-faith effort to comprehensively address our energy problems. Nothing will substitute for a real energy program.

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All solutions are not created equal. There are easy and difficult, cheap and expensive, technological and political. It would be nice to have priorities, so everybody could throw their shoulder behind a few consensus short-term goals. A consistent, oft-repeated, emotionally appealing message is crucial.

That’s the thinking behind the index-card manifesto, anyway. Just to get the ball rolling. I think I’m going to try to shorten, soften, and sex it up for the next draft.

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