What to make of it?
Tonight in his State of the Union address a President who has been known for being the most anti-environmentalist in modern history endorsed higher fuel efficiency standards on automobiles (something we liberals have plugged as common sense for years but never got much support on) and pledged to reduce our dependence on oil by 20%. In fact, he might have tried to make that step in last year's speech, when he said that we are 'addicted to oil' but then quickly took the step back apparently when his friends (dare we say handlers) in Big Oil grimaced.
A study on global warming is going to come out citing the 'smoking gun' level evidence that it is already here, and while the talk show hosts bomb away with their usual blather, conservative policy makers are strangely silent on the report.
Even conservative bloggers have suddenly created sites like http://www.terrarossa.com/that push forward energy policy with a decidedly green tint (though also pointing out something else that us liberals have pointed out for years-- having to depend on the political stability of the middle east to be supplied with energy is a major national security risk).
Why the sudden conversion?
A lot of reasons spring to mind. The biggest of course, is the realization that no matter what comes out of Iraq, it won't be the America-friendly paradise that some in the administration and the energy community had envisioned, in which America would have pretty much total control over the third largest oil reserves in the world.
Another is the political calculus. As more and more evidence piles up of the reality of global warming, and as more and more parallel evidence piles up that Exxon-Mobil paid 'skeptics' to put forward their views in order to create the appearance of a vigorous debate about global warming when in fact there was none, continuing to deny it becomes a politically untenable position. So instead it seems that conservatives have hit upon a new plan-- make the issue theirs and steal it right out from under the noses of liberals.
What should liberals do about it?
The first thing is to make sure that we stay on top of the debate. Now that so many conservatives have wheeled about and taken our view of global warming with a nimbleness that would put the Stalinist communist party in the old Soviet Union to shame, the debate is likely to shift to a debate over what to do about it, on what timetable and who should pay. That's OK. I'd rather be having that debate than the 'does Cincinnati really exist?' type debate we've been having over the past few decades.
The second thing is to recognize opportunity when it knocks. I'd rather compromise with conservatives on a bill that will reduce our dependence on oil than to have no such bill at all, as we've had in the past.