04.03.10

Paris Hilton Wrote Obama's Energy Plan. Really.

How a 2008 campaign stunt became White House policy.

President Obama's energy policy has evolved to include a multi-pronged attack, including expanded nuclear power, incentives to encourage low-emission vehicles, and now approval to explore for oil off America's coasts. For those of you less politically inclined and more likely to get their news from TMZ, you might be wondering why you feel like you've heard it all before.

It's because you have… from Paris Hilton. Yes, that Paris Hilton, who for a brief moment played a significant role in the 2008 showdown between Obama and John McCain. In response to McCain's use of her image in the infamous "Celebrity" ad, which portrayed Obama as an insubstantial lightweight, Hilton recorded a video response for the site FunnyOrDie.com that included a fairly thoughtful energy plan with plenty of resemblance to the Obama plan now in place.

Said Hilton in the video:

"Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign-oil dependency and McCain wants offshore drilling. Well why don't we do a hybrid of both candidate's ideas? We can do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which will then create new jobs and energy independence. Energy crisis solved—I'll see you at the debate, bitches."

The paragraph actually drew some serious analysis from environmental writers at publications like Discover magazine and the Christian Science Monitor. McCain was so enthusiastic that his campaign took full ownership of the idea:

"Sounds like Paris is taking the 'All of the Above' energy approach that John McCain has advocated—both alternatives and drilling," a spokesman for his campaign told reporters at the time. "Perhaps the reality is that Paris has a more substantive energy plan than Barack Obama."

Or maybe exactly as substantive—the Obama administration has already enacted a slew of tax credits to encourage hybrid vehicles and the hope is that comprehensive climate-change legislation could spur industries to develop and implement emissions-reducing technology even faster. With the new decision to look into coastal drilling—with strict environmental oversight, of course—the plan looks fairly accurate a prediction. To be fair, it might not be too much of a shock—Obama suggested he was open to drilling as part of a broader energy plan on the campaign trail after initially resisting the idea.

Hilton's logic is a bit strained as well: Drilling will likely take many years before it produces results and many experts are skeptical whether there’s even much usable oil to be found. Any oil produced is unlikely to arrive quick enough or in large enough quantities to help smooth the transition to newer technologies, as per Hilton’s plan. But give Paris (OK, the comedians who wrote the video) credit for producing a fairly accurate assessment of the future of energy policy.

A representative for Paris Hilton didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Benjamin Sarlin is Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.