This poll will no doubt be used by a variety of groups for a variety of political purposes — mostly good, since it might actually prompt some political action on the coming energy crisis. Whatever works.

But one fact hovers over polls like this, unmentionable in polite company. Not being polite, I’ll mention it: The American people are pretty ignorant about the global energy situation — like, let’s face it, most of the world’s people are, about most things. In light of that fact, what on earth is the poll supposed to prove?

Does the fact that most people think there’s no energy crisis, but Bush isn’t doing enough to address it, make that a coherent position? Does the fact that 3 out of 10 people think oil’s going to run out within 25 years give that number any special weight? Some 89% think oil companies are to blame for our energy problems. Does that make it so?

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Polls like this are thin, because on broad, complex, and not-very-often-discussed issues like this, the public just doesn’t know. They rely on their leaders to know stuff like this, and to lead.

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There’s a chicken-and-egg quality to polling, where public officials cite polls to justify positions and policies, despite the fact that public opinion was basically shaped by those positions and policies.

Facts are facts. Leadership is leadership. We’ll know it when we see it.