By Ray Fleming

NOW that he is free of the scripted straightjacket of the Democratic Party Convention in Boston, John Kerry is cutting fast and loose on the campaign trail. Listen to this: “We are going to reach for energy independence, we are going to create the jobs of the future because I want America's security to depend on American ingenuity and creativity, not the Saudi royal family.” Apparently this line is being greeted with warm applause, but should a Presidential candidate talk as if he has just been to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11? Is it wise to offer gratuitous insults to the country on which he would depend for the length of his term of office regardless of what he may achieve in the way of reducing America's dependence on oil?

Mr Kerry's energy plan, which he released last Thursday, has many good things in it. Its linch pin is increasing the fuel efficiency of American cars by creating an Energy Security Trust Fund to sponsor research into more efficient automobiles and into developing alternative fuels and renewable energy sources. This work needs doing but those who know about these things believe any significant reduction in America's reliance on Middle East oil is at least 10 years away, and more likely 20.

Another questionable theme of Mr Kerry's is a promise to penalise those employers who outsource production and service activities to low-wage countries. Again, this proposal draws applause at a time that new jobs are hard to find, but is it realistic? Companies outsource production in order to remain competitive at home and in world markets; there is a danger that Mr Kerry's simplistic policy would lead to higher unemployment rather than the reverse.

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