There wasn’t much on America’s energy policy to report on during last night’s democratic presidential debate, but then there’s never time to focus on any one topic for very long in one of these things. One thing’s for sure though—and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd said it fairly well—America needs a new energy plan. We need new leadership, he said. Or, any leadership, I say.

I was glad I caught the debate because it gave me perspective on these candidates that I didn’t have before. That’s what debates are for, right?

So afterward, I went to each of their Web sites to dig a little deeper into their energy policies. To be fair, I used the same search criteria to find them via Google: “[candidate’s name] energy plan.” There was definitely a bit out there, and it wasn’t difficult to find the energy portion of each candidate’s site (At least they seemed to be handling the search marketing well.). But when I got there, it was obvious they had different levels of commitment to energy and expertise in delivering the message via their site. And it’s hard to say exactly which of the above influenced my decision more. For example, does Hilary really have the best energy plan but she just doesn’t know how to convey that via the Web? My guess is no.

Without getting into each component of each candidate’s energy position on each of their sites, here’s how the top candidates stack up for me:

Chris Dodd has the best presentation of his energy policy and the best way of doing it on his site. The points are clearly outlined and they’re good. In particular, I appreciate his stance on energy education—a point I didn’t find within any other candidate’s plan:

Create a technical education curriculum that trains a new generation of automobile mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and construction workers to install, repair and maintain energy efficient goods across the spectrum, from cars to lamps. Training programs will:
• Assure consumers that they can use their energy efficient products without having to worry about what happens when they break.
• Create a new sector of jobs to meet the newly created demand for workers with specialized skills.

His is also the most Web 2.0-friendly site, with YouTube videos and a blogger who obviously is tasked with nothing other than blogging.

Bill Richardson’s plan is the next best. He lays out some very concrete goals:

• Cut Oil Demand: 50% by 2020.
• Create New Efficiencies And Energy Sources in the Electrical Sector: 50% by 2040.
• Dramatically Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 90% by 2050.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama tie for a not-so-close third. Obama’s plan is quite detailed and he, too, lays out some goals, including a cap-and-trade program and an investment in a clean energy economy and American Jobs.

Biden’s policy is clearly laid out (and available for PDF download), but it’s lacking on details. The biggest downfall I see is his heavy reliance on corn as a biofuel and our nation’s farmland to produce it. It’s not that I’m against the use of biofuels, I’m just not convinced that growing corn in the heartland is necessarily the best option.

From there it just gets worse. Edwards gets kudos for having a good starting point, but his plan isn’t very detailed and definitely aimed at the larger end of things: big business, oil companies and the government. And I don’t see any specifics.

Hillary doesn’t even seem to be in the game. Among very few other things, her plan calls for a goal of reducing “pollution” by 80% by 2050, but that doesn’t tell me anything.

It seems that Kucinich’s energy platform is simply anti-nuclear power, with little else about ways to reduce consumption or increase alternative energy.

This is by no means an endorsement of any of these candidates. I haven’t made up my mind yet and I doubt an endorsement from me would mean much. But a focus on energy policy should be important to anyone or any business.