I’m not watching the Dem debate in Iowa right now, so I pass the mic to former Gristie Kate Sheppard, who reports on candidate answers to a question about energy independence, which was framed, as always, in terms of its alleged high cost:

Biden, up first, says, "The president has to make this a moral crusade for the American people." Richardson says we need to raise fuel efficiency standards to 50 miles a gallon, not 35, and reduce consumption of oil by 50 percent. He also mentioned investing in mass transit, the only of the candidates to do so. "This has to be an energy revolution lead by a president," said Richardson. Dodd touted himself as the only candidate who advocated a corporate carbon tax. "Cheaper fuel is always going to win out, unfortunately," he says. Clinton says that the energy transition will require "a new form of American patriotism," in which people are proud to make sacrifices and back the necessary efforts to transition. Obama called it "a moral imperative." "The next president has to be able to tell the American not just what they want to hear, but what they need to hear," he said.

Ugh. High costs. Sacrifice. Suck it up, America, it’s a "moral crusade," so open up your wallet. Take your medicine.

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This is awful, awful framing. The public might buy this if people were feeling secure and optimistic, but in a time of growing anxiety, it’s going to fall flat.

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Here’s a better answer:

Well, weird robotic moderator woman, I object to the way you’ve framed the question. The real question is, what does it cost to stay dependent on fossil fuels? What is it costing us to keep thousands of our troops in the Middle East to secure oil supplies? What’s it costing us to send a substantial chunk of our GDP into the coffers of nations that mean us harm? What’s it costing us to treat millions of kids with asthma? What’s it costing us to poison children in the womb with mercury? What’s it costing us to blow up our Appalachian mountains? What’s it costing us to heat up the atmosphere and deal with the ensuing storms, droughts, floods, and migrations?

The costs of dependence on fossil fuel — the full costs, in health, in national security, in environmental destruction — have never been fully accounted for, but they are likely greater than anyone imagines. It is an ongoing drain on our national vitality and a stain on our national character. Freeing ourselves from fossil fuels is just that — freedom. I don’t want Americans to sacrifice and live in cold, dark caves. I don’t want to cripple the economy, I want to free it, to revitalize it. I want Americans to come together to fight for a happier, healthier, more prosperous national future, just as they always have. This is our next great challenge, and unlike so many people in the Beltway, Americans are eager to take it on.

A boy can dream, right?

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