Why no one leads on energy

Check out this detail from a McCain speaking engagement today in Detroit:

   "We can’t keep this level of gas guzzling and make a strong impact on our dependence on foreign oil. It’s a national security issue," McCain said in response to a post-speech question about gas mileage requirements. His remarks were met with silence from a skeptical audience. "I noticed no applause," he said with a chuckle before a few people obliged.

Too often, when those in public life say the things that we Energy partisans take for granted, they are greeted with dead silence, or worse. And not always in Detroit.

Friedman took out his frustration in this regard, quite rightly, on the current president…

    Of course, we can pay for the Iraq war without a tax increase. The question is, can we pay for it and be making the investments in infrastructure, science and education needed to propel our country into the 21st century? Visit Singapore, Japan, Korea, China or parts of Europe today and you’ll discover that the infrastructure in our country is not keeping pace with our peers’.
    We can pay for anything today if we want to stop investing in tomorrow. The president has already slashed the National Institutes of Health research funding the past two years. His 2008 budget wants us to cut money for vocational training, infrastructure and many student aid programs.
    Does the Bush team really believe that if we had a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax — which could reduce our dependence on Middle East oil dictators, and reduce payroll taxes for low-income workers, pay down the deficit and fund the development of renewable energy — we would be worse off as a country?

… but the sad truth is, who is running on a platform that touts the kinds of sacrifices that we really, truly ought to be embracing? No one — at least not to the extent that I believe is called for. And personally, I am more than ready to follow someone who challenges me to ask the question that JFK proposed.

Finally, while we’re on the subject, I hope y’all all saw the piece we ran Monday from the British consul who recently visited:

    The recent meeting of Major Economies in Washington showed that
governments around the world have yet to agree whether binding targets
for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (favored by the United
Kingdom and many other countries) present a better way forward than
voluntary goals, the preference of the United States.
    But tackling climate change can bring countries together if we are wise enough not to let it drive us apart.
United Kingdom shares its knowledge and experience with governments
around the world. Last year, the United Kingdom signed a far-reaching
agreement with California on climate change cooperation. Gov. Charlie
Crist enthusiastically supports the new U.K.-Florida Partnership on
Climate Change. And we have been in regular contact with members of
North Carolina’s Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change,
including a visit by parliamentarians from the House of Commons. We
would like to work with South Carolina too, if that would be welcome.

Yes, there are some leaders actually leading on climate change, and on energy independence. But neither Arnold nor Tony nor even Lula is eligible to run for president.

11 thoughts on “Why no one leads on energy

  1. bud

    My two pet domestic issues are energy and highway safety. I think we can kill two birds with one stone by simply making the price of gasoline more expensive now. It’s going to happen soon anyway. Check out the oildrum.com sometime to see how a consensus is starting to form around the idea of “peak oil”. What that means is that the growth in vehicle travel simply cannot be sustained. Why not increase gasoline taxes by $1 and begin some projects that can alleviate the problems associated with the impending depletion of world oil supplies? That would cut way back on traffic and the resulting accidents that occur. We’d all be safer, less dependent on foreign energy supplies and ultimately a healthier, slimmer society.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Yes! Absolutely! That’s what I’ve been saying…

    That makes two of us. How many more do we need to have a Movement?

    We can call it "the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement," which would probably have more appeal to potential converts than the "We Want Somebody to Raise the Price of our Gas Movement," although that’s what we want.

    I forget who put forth this model — it was either Friedman or Krauthammer (one encouraging thing about this idea is that while it may not sell well on the street, it appeals all across the spectrum among folks who really think hard about this stuff), but it worked like this: Pick a floor price for gas. Say, $4 a gallon. Say that the price, including tax, will never fall below that. That way, if consumption drops (which it probably would), the price will drop due to oversupply, and more of the price will go to the tax, which can pay for the war on terror, for alternative energy research, to whatever expense you choose, WITHOUT DEFICITS.

    The best bit is that we’d no longer be financing the tyrants and nutjobs in Iran, Venezuela, and Russia, all of whom use their wealth against U.S. interests — at least, we wouldn’t be financing them to the same extent.

  3. Gary

    Hasn’t the price of gas gone up about $1 over the past 2-3 years? People were saying in 2005 that a $1 increase in the gas tax would reduce consumption. Did it?

  4. Brad Warthen

    Yes, it did (go up a dollar) and no it didn’t (depress demand). But I believe that’s because the price was so low to start with — near historic lows, adjusted for inflation.
    I’m sort of reminded of … tell you what; I think I’ll turn this into a separate post….

  5. Karen McLeod

    Not only does the price of gas need to go up, but also heating oil, and other non renewable energy sources. But, in addition to that, there needs to be a huge information/advertising campaign to remind people that every time they buy gas they’re buying more IEDs to kill our soldiers; they (and I) are basicly funding Osama and his ilk. If done well, that, even more than the price, might well go a long way to bringing consumption down.

  6. bill

    I’m with you.Let’s start by demanding decent PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.The T-shirt slogan can be,”CARS HAPPENED”.
    In honor of his birthday-
    Give Me Some Truth(Lennon)
    I’m sick and tired of hearing things
    from uptight-short sighted-narrow minded hypocrites
    All I want is the truth,
    Just gimme some truth,
    I’ve had enough of reading things
    by neurotic-psychotic-pig headed politicians,
    All I want is the truth,
    Just gimme some truth,
    No short haired-yellow bellied
    son of tricky dicky,
    Is gonna mother hubbard,
    Soft soap me,
    With just a pocketful of hope,
    Money for dope,
    Money for rope,
    I’m sick to death of seeing things
    from tight lipped-condescending-
    mommies little chauvinists,
    All I want is the truth,
    just gimme some truth,
    I’ve had enough watching scenes of
    schizophrenic-egocentric-paranoiac –
    prima donnas,
    All I want is the truth,
    Just gimme some truth.

  7. weldon VII

    You know, Bill, as much as I admire Lennon’s art, I wouldn’t make him my investment banker. Harrison hit the right notes in “Taxman.” Gimme that truth.
    And Karen, Brad, Bud, Fidel, Karl, Mao, you say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we all want to change your head.
    All of us, that is, who realize that the price of transportation affects the price of every product and service.
    But no. Y’all want to make it cost $10 to go back and forth to the grocery store.
    Good luck convincing anybody other than some pea-brained academic who writes papers people in the real world never read — one of Brad’s “folks who really think hard about this stuff.”
    Those old folks on fixed incomes, the people who read newspapers these days in their printed form, are gonna love you when they find out you doubled their cost of living but their Social Security didn’t adjust accordingly.
    But that’s OK. What’s a few thousand subscriptions down the drain to a man who has admitted more than once he really doesn’t fathom money, yet would advise us how much we should pay for fuel?

  8. weldon VII

    One more thing. Brad, you mentioned above, later, in another post, that you wanted to form a Grownup Party.
    Call Ben Bernanke and ask him how grownup this $1-to-$2 tax is. You know, a fellow South Carolinian who grew up 20 miles down the road from the place you’ve called your hometown, someone whose job is actually manipulating the economy, not just writing about it for a bird-cage liner.
    Tell us what the Fed chairman says. If he likes your pie-in-the-sky idea, I’ll give you five shots a side for $20 a hole, you choose the course.

  9. Doug Ross

    You don’t understand, Weldon. In order to compensate for the extra money the lower income families will be paying for gas, the government will set up another program to transfer some of the gas tax money back to them in the form of monthly rebate checks. As with any government enterprise, the money will flow through a series of bureacracies rife with fraud and abuse but that’s okay – we shouldn’t expect efficiency. It will create another “teat” for another group of people to suckle on and grown dependent on. We’ll call it the “Vehicle Security System” and when the group gets large enough, we’ll start a lobbying organization called “American Association of Driving Persons” (AADP) who will make sure the members have “access” to Congressmen to ensure their “needs” are taken care of through legislation and taxation of the middle class .
    Pretty simple, right? Because the government is efficient, righteous, and full of self-less politicians.

  10. Herb Brasher

    So we will fiddle, I expect, until Rome burns. Or more to the point, doesn’t burn, because there is no fuel for the fire. We are in for some hard bumps, I expect, because we refuse to see what’s coming, and even if we could, we cannot make the sacrifices needed to prepare for it. As the good book says:

    3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

    I came across an interesting thought; I can’t remember from where: in order to survive, any society must be able to make the sacrifices necessary to 1) protect and raise their children; 2) to defend itself from its enemies. Energy policy falls in definitely under no. 2.

  11. weldon VII

    Well, Doug, that might come true eventually. But first, after Brad drives the price of gas up to $5 a gallon with his $2 tax, the list of editors, reporters and gophers to be found elsewhere on this site would be chopped in half.
    The Assistant Associate Troublesome Social Issues Editor would probably end up filing for unemployment.
    Think McClatchy would keep Brad when they find out he proposed the tax on his blog?

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