- Set rules and enforce the law. I've suggested a floor price for energy as the lightest-possible regulation. But there are many laws on the books concerning fraud, and patent rights, which deserve good enforcement, especially now.
- Watch carefully and be alert for scams. We need honest advice on what's real, what's just someone looking for a hand-out, and what's an out-and-out scam. Oversight of the industry is absolutely vital, not just to stop scams but to point people into potentially-profitable directions.
- Support basic research. Corporations are great at applying basic research, but few have the wherewithal (or the talent) to do the basic stuff. They can support it, however. And so should the government. By supporting basic research government assures that the results go out to everyone.
- Cheerlead and lead. Government at all levels offers a bully pulpit, which should be used. But government can also take the lead in increasing efficiency and providing a market for new energy ideas.
Right now we're in the scam or not a scam stage of The War Against Oil. Is cellulosic alcohol really going to work on the bottom line? What type of wind or solar project -- large scale or small -- is most efficient? How do we push utilities toward buying as well as selling power, storing it wisely, and increasing their own efficiency?
All these are good questions for government. Even the biggest players in this game demand that government play a part. But that role must be independent of industry. It must not be subordinate to it.
Whether that happens will be a key question in this coming election.