The first offshore lease sale in federal waters since the Macondo oil spill was held in New Orleans on Dec. 14. It was a dog-and-pony show for the Department of the Interior with Sec. Ken Salazar in attendance to convince the oil industry how much the Democratic administration is doing for the business. The night before, Republicans pushed legislation through the House of Representatives that would require the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. The only trouble is that the pipeline construction was tied to Social Security payroll tax cuts that would affect some 160 million Americans. At the press conference announcing passage of the legislation, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) stood in front of a countdown clock that read “If Congress doesn’t act, middle-class taxes increase in 18 days, four hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds.” Congress had been crossed out so the sign read “If the Senate doesn’t act.” Of course, Republicans are well aware of President Barack Obama’s promise to veto any bill that includes forcing the pipeline construction. It is unlikely the legislation will pass the Senate anyway. What do these two events that happened this week have in common? These are both examples of the political posturing that occurs in place of a national energy policy. In the absence of a national energy policy, the oil industry remains a lightning rod for what’s wrong with profit-making companies making “obscene” profits. However, the oil industry also represents what’s right with profit-making companies -- investing in America’s energy future, increasing the number of U.S. jobs, providing the energy that keeps lights on and houses warm and keeping our mobile society moving. Yet administration after administration -- whether it is Democratic or Republican -- has seen every effort to create a workable energy policy fall by the wayside in the face of all the political posturing. There is no clear path to follow regardless of the energy source. Burning coal increases emissions, but over half of the country’s baseload power generation is with coal. Crude oil is the basis of the transportation industry, including cars, trucks, trains and airplanes. Yet, oil spills are blamed for ruining the environment. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, but an aging pipeline infrastructure is leading to headline-grabbing explosions. Nuclear energy provides the cheapest electricity except for hydroelectric power. But, nuclear power comes with a waste fuel problem that lasts for millennia. And every time a new administration comes in, the energy industry is buffeted by all of the posturing that replaces a national energy policy. The need for an energy policy became apparent after the oil embargo in 1973. In 1974, the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) was formed and John Sawhill was named head of the agency during Republican Richard Nixon’s administration. At the time, I was a reporter on The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. I went along with Republican Sen. Henry Bellmon, who invited Sawhill to take a tour of the oilfields in western Oklahoma. The head of the FEA had never seen an operating drilling rig or oilwell before that trip. In the mid-1970s, the United States was running out of natural gas. Perhaps you might have heard that before. The Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act of 1974 allowed the federal government to prohibit electric utilities from burning natural gas or petroleum. The ban on burning natural gas for power generation was extended during Jimmy Carter’s Democratic administration. The price of gas was so low that most oil and gas companies weren’t looking for gas. Surprisingly, if you don’t look for it, you won’t find it. By the way, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was set up in 1975 in case there was another oil embargo. What has been missing in all of the laws enacted since that time is any kind of sound, sensible energy policy to guide development. However, the political posturing and grandstanding around energy has taken on a life of its own. Of course in today’s politics, you have to be either ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative -- none of this middle-of-the-road stuff that would result from compromise. It would take a president and a Congress that weren’t afraid of losing the next election to be able to hammer out a national energy policy that addresses all of the issues from what type of energy to produce to how the environment is impacted to the cost of energy. Who wants to step up to the plate and hit that home run?