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Analysis: $5 a gallon gas? Listen up, Obama!

The mounting oil supply crunch poses the defining crisis (and opportunity) of Obama's presidency.

That brings us back to President Obama. Like just about every U.S. leader since Jimmy Carter, as a candidate Obama promised to wean America off imported oil. He promised that we would get 80 percent of our energy from clean sources by 2035. Having inherited a dire financial situation, Obama has had plenty on his to-do list, but so far his energy pledge has been an empty promise.

The looming energy crisis provides the opportunity to change that. Crises, after all, drive the agenda in Washington. The administration of George W. Bush understood well how to use that fact for political advantage. Under Bush, 9/11 became a pretext for invading Iraq and expanding presidential power. California’s electric crisis became a catalyst for an agenda friendly to oil producers.

In contrast, Obama has been criticized for being out of touch, for pursuing nuclear disarmament and health-care reform when the public needed jobs and economic growth. The current crisis will no doubt galvanize Americans over the need to do something about the rising cost of commuting to work and driving to the store. Obama can seize this opportunity to finally fulfill his own promise on energy, and to put America on the road to energy independence.

Follow David Case on Twitter: @DavidCaseReport