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Op-Ed Columnist

Power With Purpose

Washington, DC

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Thomas L. Friedman

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Imagine if Tea Party politicians sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our energy crisis.

With the election season over, maybe you’ve forgotten about energy, but I certainly haven’t. It would be easy to forget that the problem even exists, when our headlines are constantly splashed with the violence in Benin, the authoritarian crackdown in Papua New Guinea and the still-unstable democratic transition in El Salvador. But the energy problem is growing, and politicians are more divided than ever. Republicans seem to think that energy can just be ignored. Democratic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, seem to think that nonsensical rhetoric will substitute for a argument.

But the Democratic party of Nancy Pelosi is not the Democratic party of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson wouldn’t refuse to budge, he'd compromise because he'd understand that the fate of the country, and his own political career, depended on a lasting solution to the problem of energy.

Let's make America for the world what Cape Canaveral was to America: the world's greatest launching pad. If I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea to politicians, I'd tell them two things about energy. First, there's no way around the issue unless we're prepared to spend less: and not just spend less, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of national infrastructure that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax cuts as well, but as they say, "Ya gotta get down to brass tacks."

Second, I'd tell them to look at China, which all but solved its energy crisis over the past decade. When I visited China in 2002, Bartho, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a second job because of the high cost of energy. I caught up with Bartho in Shanghai last year. Thanks to China's reformed approach toward energy, Bartho has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford winter coats for his kids.

That's all it takes. Don't expect to see any solutions as long as fringe bloggers insist on playing a high-stakes game of blackjack with one another. America's got to call a time-out.