Muckraker: Grist on Politics

America needs a comprehensive new energy plan, and that plan should include more drilling for oil and gas. That’s the message Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered in the official Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress on Tuesday night.

“To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down,” said Jindal, a young up-and-comer in the party that many consider to be a leading contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. “All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump and unless we act now, those prices will return.”

The GOP solution Jindal offered sounded something like what Obama had proposed just before, but included nuclear power and increased oil and gas drilling.

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“To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power, and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home,” he said. “We believe that Americans can do anything and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.”

Jindal criticized the newly enacted stimulus package for including funds to purchase more efficient vehicles for the federal government and for high-speed rail. “It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring,'” he said. “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

He also devoted an uncomfortably long portion of his speech to Hurricane Katrina, noting his state’s experience as evidence that government is not the answer to problems:

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina — we have our doubts. Let me tell you a story.

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During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: “Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!” I asked him: “Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?” He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, “Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.” And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: “Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!” Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

Jindal didn’t, however, note that it was his party running the government at the time.

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