Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Is Softness a Vice?

My friend H and I have been having a lively discussion (by e-mail) about the meaning of the word "soft" in a political context. Historically, this word has been used most often by Republican candidates who denounce their Democratic opponents as "soft" on something. Fifty and sixty years ago, Democrats were "soft" on communism. More recently they have been "soft" on crime. Today they are "soft" on terror and "soft" on defense. At least that's what some Republicans say about us Democrats.

I got into a pointless and unwinnable argument with H about whether Democrats are "soft." We finally agreed (that is, he proposed and I accepted) on a definition of "soft." "Soft" means simply "intending to spend less" or "placing a somewhat lower priority" on whatever terror, crime, defense, communism, etc. With that definition I lost the argument. Actually, I hope the Democratic Party is "softer" on defense than the party currently in power. I would like to see some of the money diverted from unnecessary high-tech weapons systems and spent instead on improving transportation facilities, schools, and health care for all Americans. I particularly like the idea of Democrats as "soft" on relieving the very rich of their tax burden.

Without speaking for the Democratic Party as a whole, I list here some policies on which I am personally "soft:"
This is a partial list of my soft spots. I'll write in more detail later.
Interesting ideas, Albert.

I favor a research and development program aimed at developing practical alternative sources of energy for our economy, such as geothermal power, solar power, wind power, and tidal power. Some European countries are way ahead of us in using wind power.

A minor quibble. R&D definitely has value for wind energy, but at least equally important is continuing the existing government incentive that makes wind competitive with fossil fuels. The federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC) reduces a wind farm owner's tax payments by 1.9 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity the wind farm generates during the first 10 years of its operation. The PTC is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2007. If the credit is extended for several years, we will see much greater use of this clean energy resource. For smaller turbines, the key incentive is a Small Turbine Investment Credit, something that doesn't yet exist. Readers can help support these and other pro-wind laws here.

Also, plug-in hybrid autos can be manufactured with technology available today. They'll get 80 or more mpg, and they will allow wind energy (for example) to take a bite out of our oil imports. Readers can support this concept through Plug-In Partners.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association
Thank you, Tom Gray, for the complement and thank you for adding to my blog. The ideas are interesting, but I can't take credit for them. These suggestions for developing alternative energy sources have appeared in numerous publications. One that I read is called "YES", a magazine published quarterly. You may already be familiar with it.
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