Those of us hanging around these parts in the mid-1980s who remember the Wendy’s chain of hamburger restaurants’ use of the advertising line “Where’s the beef?” It was used in an effort to put down competitor patty-size. Later that same year Democratic primary candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale used the phrase to present his arguments against the proposed policies championed by his rival, Gary Hart. Hart was, per Mondale, without the “beef” or lacked substance.
It occurs to me that the phrase should be dredged up and used again in reference to an “In my Opinion” piece that appeared in The Oregonian on February 21. Titled Good for our economy and environment, it rails about the Clean Fuels Program in Oregon that was passed by the legislature in 2009 and, according to Governor John Kitzhaber has been “stalled by heavy pressure from the oil industry.” Meanwhile, “our neighbors in British Columbia and California,” the governor reports, “have been reaping the benefits of capital investment and job creation by opening their transportation fuel markets to cleaner-burning fuels.”
Kitzhaber argues the case for implementing the fuels program and talks in bureaucratese about what he has directed Oregon state agencies to do. However, where is the beef? Everyone of sane mind knows that we want to clean-up the environment as much as possible and to do so requires a diminishing use of fossil fuels and “clean” coal, too. Nevertheless, why does Kitzhaber present his arguments to the public-at-large but does not instruct them in an action role whereby they can do something in their own right about the plight of the Clean Fuels Program?
This is what’s missing in his piece for public consumption. What can an individual do about increasing the use of advanced biofuels, natural gas, electric vehicles and propane to create “homegrown industry that captures a portion of the billions we spend on gasoline every year?” It just comes across as so futile to lecture the average Oregonian about what we need but not outline a battle plan by which foot soldiers like me, my friends and my neighbors can get into gear to help.
What sort of leadership strategy, and by whom, was used in British Columbia and California to bring things up to an acceptable standard that Kitzhaber sees as exemplary treatment to address this important matter? Why does Kitzhaber lecture us in a newspaper’s “Commentary” section when he comes across as a governor who apparently cannot come up with a specific consumer-based plan of action for doing here what has been done elsewhere? Why? Why? Why? That’s what the average citizen, one who wields no wealth, power or influence like myself, but can only wring his hands in despair over air contaminates with no direction from the state by the highest elected public official, John Kitzhaber.
Success in the Clean Fuels Program depends on public education and involvement or what’s to be done. There must be specific actions identified that the average Oregonian can relate to and through which he and she can participate. Hopefully this time with this matter what happens is not a repeat of “leadership” by some hired hotshot individual or organization from afar like Oregon education reform and Cover Oregon; rather, that Governor Kitzhaber takes charge or keeps in touch with anyone who is appointed to the task and manages the effort via close and ongoing supervision.
We need the beef, governor. You’re the one who should be providing that missing ingredient of direct leadership in the Clean Fuels Program that’s important to everyone living in Oregon, and throughout the world for that matter, whether they recognize it yet or not. Go ahead and make Oregon over in imitation of the clean fuels program successes you applaud in our closest Canadian province and the one directly to the south.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)