Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Whether Or Not the Facts Change

While preparing for an MSNBC interview recently about the presidential candidates' energy plans, I was struck by how similar they are. They are both in favor of reducing carbon emissions, they both want more wind and solar power, they both favor clean coal technologies, they both like cap-and-trade systems to reduce greenhouse gases, and they both want to see more nuclear power. Of course, they differ on degree and implementation on some of these issues. John McCain would rely on market forces and incentives. Barack Obama prefers more government mandates.

Until very recently, one critical difference was where they stood on offshore drilling. Obama was opposed to it. McCain is in favor. Obama stressed that oil companies already hold leases to 68 million acres of land and 40 million acres offshore. He said he would force them to drill in these areas or lose their rights to do so. However, McCain thinks it is better to let oil companies drill where the oil actually is. He has called for lifting federal restrictions on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

But now Obama has changed his tune. Last weekend, he indicated a willingness to compromise on offshore drilling. Some have criticized him for changing his mind. I applaud him. Obama is moving from idealism to reality on this and other key issues. Even the Wall Street Journal applauded Obama this morning for backpedaling on his threatened tax increases. Apparently his advisors have told him that tax increases (even if they are intended to hit only the rich) can indeed slow the economy. That's not a particularly good idea when unemployment is rising and recession is a real possibility.

John Maynard Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind." Facts haven't changed, but it is encouraging to see that Senator Obama shows a willingness to change his mind as he becomes more familiar with the facts.