By Douglas C. Lyons
Florida Sun Sentinel
September 20, 2011

I just walked out of an editorial board meeting with former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Talk about a wasted resource! She’s knowledgeable, seasoned and up-to-speed on a variety of America’s energy and environmental needs. You’d never guess she’s a Republican.

She’s currently working with the CASEnergy Coalition, an advocacy organization for nuclear power. In that role, she’s trying to bring the facts to the often emotional and sometimes hysterical debate over nuclear generation. The group couldn’t have found a better spokeswoman.

She defended nuclear power as clean energy admirably, even saying nice things about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a government agency. “They’re not a target like the EPA,” she said at one point. “People are satisfied that we need this agency.”

She made her points in comparing nuclear power versus renewables, which she supports, and the more prevasive fossil fuels, arguing that an energy diversity will be needed to meet the growing demand of a world hungry for energy.

The former governor and EPA administrator didn’t hold back. Questions were not dodged, spun or revised. Her answers, fueled by the fearlessness that comes from no longer having to kowtow to an administration or an electorate produced some honesty we don’t always hear in our editorial board meetings.

Gang of 12 will quickly come together to resolve the nation’s long-term budget crisis. She does think, however, that Congress will find a way to short circuit the automatic trigger that would force mandatory cuts in key programs if the lawmakers fail to act on their own by year’s end.

She also had kind words for Lisa P. Jackson, the current head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. The accolade was a pragmatic one shaped by her own experiences in an agency that follows science and data that often runs afoul with economic and political costs.

But, the thing that got me was that none of the Republican candidates running for the presidency has yet picked her brain, as if their less government soundbites somehow serve as substitutes for bold new energy and environmental policies.

(Ms.Whitman acknowledges she’s “toxic” during a primary fight. Her favorite candidate is Jon Huntsman. No one, she says, will touch her, as if the electorate isn’t interested in a good idea from a candidate vying to be the new leader of the free world.)

We’re in the beginning of the silly season, one made all the more sillier with someone with the smarts and seasoning of Christine Todd Whitman left to stew on the sidelines.