Obama Cites Michael Pollan’s Sun Food Agenda

by Jeff Nield

In a recent National Public Radio interview, Michael Pollan talks about how he was approached by a Democratic party staffer about his New York Times article, Farmer in Chief. The article is an open letter to the next president concerning U.S. agriculture policy. The staffer wanted Pollan’s consent to summarize the article into a page or two to get it into the hands of Barack Obama. Pollan declined, saying that if he could have said everything that needed to be said in two pages, he wouldn’t have written 8000 words.

Despite the snub, it looks like the article created enough of a buzz that it made it into Obama’s stack of pre-election reading material. In an interview with Joe Klein, Obama refers to the article, explaining how Pollan’s ideas fit into the concept of a new energy economy.  We’ve received no word on whether John McCain has read Pollan’s article.

Here’s the portion of the interview where Obama addresses the issue:
“The biggest problem with our energy policy has been to lurch from crisis to trance. And what we need is a sustained, serious effort. Now, I actually think the biggest opportunity right now is not just gas prices at the pump but the fact that the engine for economic growth for the last 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20, and that was consumer spending. I mean, basically, we turbo-charged this economy based on cheap credit. Whatever else we think is going to happen over the next certainly 5 years, one thing we know, the days of easy credit are going to be over because there is just too much de-leveraging taking place, too much debt both at the government level, corporate level and consumer level. And what that means is that just from a purely economic perspective, finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.

“I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That’s just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security and drives our economy, that’s going to be my number one priority when I get into office, assuming, obviously, that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. In conversations with folks like Warren Buffet, Larry Summers, and the other people that I’ve been spending time with on this, I described it as we’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy. Now, the one other point I want to make about this, though, we can’t divorce the energy issue from what I believe has to be the dominant political theme underlying everything — the economy, healthcare, you name it. And that is restoring a sense that we’re growing the economy from the bottom up and not the top down. 

“That’s the overarching philosophical change that we’ve got to have. It’s the attitude that Henry Ford had when he paid his workers a decent wage. That means they’re going to be able to buy their cars. The irony of McCain trying to make this whole Joe the Plumber thing as his sort of mantra over the last few days, if you look at the transcript of my conversation with him, the point I was making was two-fold. Number one, I want to give you a tax cut sooner so you can save sooner to start your business sooner because the average plumber starting off sure isn’t making $250,000 a year.”

This article originally appeared in, but I found it on Bioneers