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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Honesty In The Debate

Robert J. Samuelson has a great Op/Ed in this mornings Washington Post, "An Oil Habit America Cannot Break" which lays the blame for our energy dependence where it belongs; not on Congress alone, but on we, the people. Honesty in the debate about our energy future is probably the biggest missing part of the puzzle to becoming closer to energy independent.

Three groups, the tax lobby, the auto lobby and the environmental lobby, which all represent big segments of the population have prevented us from doing anything meaningful in the area of reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Starting with the environmental end, things like opening up the ANWR and coastal shelves to exploration has been beaten to death by environmentalists as disasters waiting to happen, and longer term solutions that do nothing now. The problem is, if we'd have started exploring these areas when Bill Clinton first vetoed such legislation in the mid 1990's we'd be seeing the oil now. Instead, every year, propped up by the environmental lobby, we've killed such legislation because it would take 5-10 years to develop the fields.

Never mind the fact that only 1% of the ANWR has ever been proposed for exploration, to listen to The Sierra Club and it's friends, you'd think we were going to plop a well every 5 feet in Alaska, and there would be constant spills and destruction. Never mind that history in Alaska has shown that with few exceptions, caused by individual idiots, the environment there hasn't been destroyed by the past 30 years of exploration in Prudohe Bay.

They also ignore, in their quest for a hydrogen based economy that 85% of the hydrogen we produce comes from natural gas, which still has to be drilled for. Sure, we could get it from cracking seawater, but that requires nearly three times as much energy as the hydrogen created will produce. Where's all that electricity going to come from?

The tax lobby has kept the government from increasing gas taxes to the point where we'd make a choice towards smaller vehicles. As Samuelson points out, using the increased revenues from a high gas tax other taxes could be lowered to offset the cost to consumers. However, no one mentions that point. Europe has moved to much more efficient vehicles because of their incredibly high gas taxes. However, the fact they didn't lower any other taxes to offset them is part of the reason they make a lousy example here.

The auto lobby and environmentalists don't realize it, but they are in cahoots on the last part of Samuelson's thoughts, higher fuel economy standards. One of the ways Europe has gotten much more fuel efficient is through the use of diesel engines. The problem is everytime Congress is ready to pass CAFE standards that include a nod to diesels the envirnomentalists scream about them. The auto industry (in the US) has done itself no favors in this area by not working to produce a clean burning diesel alternative.

The auto lobby itself is a two fold beast that has proven impossible to tame. The workers (UAW) on one end complains that jobs will be lost if CAFE standards are increased because foreign automakers are so far ahead in fuel efficient vehicles. On the other end the management folks argue the same thing, but based on the fact that highly inefficient vehicles are the profit centers for their industry, and cutting back on them would mean cutting income, and then workers to offset the losses.

Congress's part in this whole thing rests on it's lack of political will to do the right thing, instead of the thing that will keep money flowing into election funds. Democrats can't possibly believe, other than with $$ in their eyes, that opening areas of the US to exploration as part of a short to mid-term solution is a horrible idea. At the same time the GOP can't continue to push for super low gas taxes and corporate profits at the expense dependence on foreign oil.

Keep in mind that even is some kid at MIT developed the perfect hydrogen fuel cell today we'd still have 30 years of legacy oil applications we'd have to fuel. The day the car was introduced every horse and buggy wasn't replaced immediately, it took decades. The same will be true with any alternative source of energy. Until that time passes we'll still need oil, the question is will we develop the political will to produce it here, or keep paying the Hugo Chavez's of the world for it.

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2Comments:

Blogger shoprat said...

It is a clear example of reality vs an empty idealism and political stupidity. The left will not accept any solution except for higher taxes and less usage. I think they all own stock in horse traders and buggy companies because that seems to be what they want.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

I think they may hold those stocks as well, praying for the rebound.

10:46 PM  

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