Friedman plugs the Energy Party agenda

We haven’t spoken much about the Energy Party lately, what with being obsessed with the economy and all (see, I told y’all this wouldn’t be fun before we started). Thank goodness, Tom Friedman took the time earlier this week to get us back on track by touting a key plank of the Party platform, in a piece headlined “Real men tax gas.” An excerpt:

But are we really that tough? If the metric is a willingness to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and consider the use of force against Iran, the answer is yes. And we should be eternally grateful to the Americans willing to go off and fight those fights. But in another way – when it comes to doing things that would actually weaken the people we are sending our boys and girls to fight – we are total wimps. We are, in fact, the wimps of the world. We are, in fact, so wimpy our politicians are afraid to even talk about how wimpy we are.

How so? France today generates nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and it has managed to deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or panics. And us? We get about 20 percent and have not been able or willing to build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or neighbors. We’re too afraid to store nuclear waste deep in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain – totally safe – at a time when French mayors clamor to have reactors in their towns to create jobs. In short, the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power, despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover.

How about Denmark? Little Denmark, sweet, never-hurt-a-fly Denmark, was hit hard by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 1973, Denmark got all its oil from the Middle East. Today? Zero. Why? Because Denmark got tough. It imposed on itself a carbon tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax, made massive investments in energy efficiency and in systems to generate energy from waste, along with a discovery of North Sea oil (about 40 percent of its needs).

And us? When it comes to raising gasoline taxes or carbon taxes – at a perfect time like this when prices are already low – our politicians tell us it is simply “off the table.” So I repeat, who is the real tough guy here?

As Friedman correctly asserts, raising the gas tax would be a “win, win, win, win, win” that would make us “physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier.” But none of our politicians, of either party, have the guts even to bring up the subject, because they can hear the voters screaming at them with all the mature outrage evinced in this unrelated, but hilarious, commercial (only instead of screaming, “I want those sweeties,” we’d be hollering, “We want our cheap gas!”)

Anyway, I posted something on Twitter about the Friedman column earlier this week, and Doug Ross responded on Facebook. I’ll share our exchange here just to get the blog discussion going:

Doug Ross

Real men must like double digit inflation, high food prices, and punishing low income Americans who need to drive to work
Brad Warthen

We love all that stuff. We just don’t like quiche.
Did you read the piece?
Doug Ross

I did read the article. He says he wants to take 10 cents of each dollar and give it to “the poor” to cushion the $1 per gallon cost. What about the people who aren’t “poor” who will see their fuel costs go up by several thousand dollars a year? and the increase in cost of every single item that is manufactured and transported. it’s a recipe Read Morefor economic disaster. Some of Friedman’s ideas go beyond “ivory tower” to the point where the people in the ivory towers have to crane their necks to see him.
We have all the money we need to do what Friedman wants currently in the federal coffers. Our political “leaders” choose to do other things.
Brad Warthen

But raising the revenue isn’t the point; it’s just a side benefit.
The point is making ourselves more energy-independent so we stop underwriting the thugs of the world.
If France and Denmark can do it, so can we.
Doug Ross

Oh, if we could just be like Denmark and France!!! Apparently that’s the new American Dream
And yeah, for those who are confused — I was using that “irony” thing again when I said “we love all that stuff.” But I was serious about not liking quiche.

18 thoughts on “Friedman plugs the Energy Party agenda

  1. doug_ross

    People like Friedman who come up with these “all we need to do is X and our problems will be solved” ideas need to offer some deeper analysis.

    Let’s have Tom explain how this would work.

    Suppose that on January 1, 2010 we see the price of a gallon of gasoline rise by $1. How long until we see the benefit? Years – right? How long until we see the increase in all food prices? Days. How long until every middle class American family has to cut back on spending on other items in order to cover the new increase in prices? Seconds.
    People will have to make choices between driving their cars to work and eating in restaurants — boom! another industry hammered… and then we’ll see even MORE deficit spending to bail them out.

    It’s a vicious circle when you try to use taxes to “fix” things. But Friedman doesn’t have to worry about that — he just needs to type 500 words that he came up with while taking his morning shower.

    Some people are too smart for their own good.

  2. Birch Barlow

    When the recession is over, I’ll have no problem with raising taxes — it will be necessary to close the deficit gap.

    But I don’t see why we couldn’t at least raise gas taxes offset with decreases in the income tax. I would think even the anti-tax crowd wouldn’t be opposed to that.

    We have to raise taxes somehow. Some of it might as well come from a gas tax.

  3. kbfenner

    Okay,so why didn’t we insist that the replacement cars purchased with Cash for Clunkers get higher mileage? Why didn’t stimulus money go towards energy independence projects?

    My Prius was built in The US of A. It cost just under $23K brand new and seats four 6’4″ men comfortably.I get about 50 mpg driving around Columbia. Why are we so set on bailing out US car companies that sent jobs overseas and built vehicles that made us more dependent on foreign oil we have to send troops to die for, and fought higher CAFE standards????

  4. Lee Muller

    Tom Friedman doesn’t really have ideas, just lots of vague notions. He lacks the basic education in science and economics to formulate any real ideas on his new favorite subjects, but his audience is even less knowledgeable than Mr. Friedman.

    Here is the sort of waste we get with central planners, with no technical or business expertise, start spending someone else’s ( taxpayers’) money:

    A $90,000 economy car

    Calif. automaker receives $528.7 million govt loan

    WASHINGTON – Fisker Automotive, a California manufacturer of luxury electric vehicles, will receive more than $500 million in federal loans to develop a plug-in hybrid sports car with a sticker price of nearly $90,000 and a new plug-in hybrid vehicle to be built in the United States.

  5. Lee Muller

    Birch, don’t buy into the slogan that, “We have to raise taxes”.

    No, we don’t have to raise taxes, and it won’t do any good to raise taxes. Here’s why:

    High tax rates are one of the main causes of our boom and bust cycles, and certainly the reason the economy cannot recover.

    When taxes are already so high that they absorb most of the savings and investment capital, as taxes are now, any attempts to extract more taxes will reduce economic activity so much that the tax receipts will actually be lower.

    Keynesian statists will try anything to prevent a complete collapse of the economy, except for tax reductions, because that would entail a surrender of power which they must work to reclaim.

    The socialistic central planners hope they can stimulate recovery, or at least prevent total collapse, by putting more money in circulation. To pay for it, they must borrow money from the banks, through the Federal Reserve, which will devalue the currency. That devaluation is a form of tax increase, but it only creates the illusion of economic growth.

    The top priority of those in power now, and their media mouthpieces, is acquiring more power through drastic social reorganization (“reform”). They don’t really care about economic recovery unless it serves their lust for power. If a prolonged recession helps them take over banks, manufacturing, medical care and other industries, then they will prolong the recession.

  6. Birch Barlow

    When taxes are already so high that they absorb most of the savings and investment capital, as taxes are now, any attempts to extract more taxes will reduce economic activity so much that the tax receipts will actually be lower.

    Sounds like you might fall into the group of people who could support a gas tax offset by decreases in income tax. Shifting some income tax to consumption tax would increase saving and investment. Do you agree? Seems to me that that would be beneficial.

  7. Birch Barlow

    From reading this article, it sounds like I might could have passed for a conservative in years past.

    Now that their agenda is centered around a foreign policy I don’t support, religi– excuse me, “family values”, and cutting taxes at all costs (the public debt be damned), a conservative I am certainly not.

    Lee, I support balancing the budget. That’s probably going to require cutting spending and raising taxes. It’d be nice if it weren’t necessary to raise taxes but it’s just not a political reality.

  8. Brad Warthen

    Birch, about the quiche thing…

    Actually, I’m deathly allergic to it. Can’t have eggs. I once broke on on my hand and the base of my thumb swole up to twice normal size, so imagine what it would do to my insides. But saying I’m too manly to eat it sounds better.

    I’m SO manly, it would make me terribly ill to eat it — like Superman under a red sun…

  9. Lee Muller

    We cannot balance the budgets by raising taxes. As I already explained, raising taxes will generate lower tax revenues, because they are already too high.

    The budget can only be balanced by reducing spending. Instead, Democrats propose such huge spending increases that the deficits will be four times the worst deficit under Bush and the GOP.

    Social Security is bankrupt, and will collapse immediately unless we start repaying the $7 trillion borrowed from it. Medicare is bankrupt now, yet idiots want to expand it to cover everyone. $50 billion a year is lost to fraud, so Obama proposes reducing fraud by $2.3 billion a year. Fools!

    I support sales taxes as the most fair tax, but a targeted sales tax on motor fuels should only be enough to provide for public roads and their policing, not some punitive rate to change driving behaviors, to conform to some mystical notions about what is “good for society”, or “good for the environment” – all unprovable beliefs.

  10. kbfenner

    I believe the proper construction is “I busted an egg on my hand once’t and it done went and swole all up double-like.”

    If one cannot eat quiche because one is too sensitive, does that not make one even more effete? Is that why one drives a big ole red pick-up truck all over the city? Compensating for some perceived lack?

  11. doug_ross

    Little snippet from the news story about the terrorist arrested yesterday. See if you can spot the key word.

    “Zazi — a legal U.S. resident who immigrated in 1999 — began plotting as early as August 2008 to “use one or more weapons of mass destruction,” when he “and others” traveled from Newark, N.J., to receive explosives training in Pakistan, prosecutors said.

    Within days of returning from Pakistan in early 2009, he moved to the Denver suburb of Aurora, where he used a computer to research homemade bomb ingredients and to look up beauty supply stores where he could buy them, according to prosecutors.”

    Need some help? It starts with P, which rhymes with Gee!, as in “Gee, I thought Al Queda was in Iraq and Afghanistan, not PAKISTAN?!”

    I guess the next domino in the Never Ending War on Terror is Pakistan.

    We’re trying to kill fireants with F-1 bombers. It’s a waste of time, money, and American lives.

  12. Karen McLeod

    Once again we didn’t follow through when we had the time. If we’d kept at least some of Carter’s initiatives in the foreign oil department, we might be in much better position now. It’s like the Afghanistan war: if we’d done what needed to be done at that time, we wouldn’t have the heckova mess we do now. Oh, well, if wishes were horses…

  13. Lee Muller

    Like Obama, you critics of Bush talk on in generalities. You don’t know enough about Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan to describe anything you would do. Obams is just as lost. But his vague ramblings strike a chord with you folk, so you vote for him, and support him blindly.

    When Obama fails to prosecute the war, and fails to protect America from terrorists, just as Clinton failed, come back here for the rest of your lashing.

  14. Lee Muller

    Tom Friedman can make stuff up and bluff his way past his undereducated liberal audience, but not anywhere else.

    Take his bogus example of Denmark, which he claims because “energy indpendent” by imposing a “carbon tax”. Pure hogwash.

    Denmark stopped still has no oil of its own. It stopped having to import Perian Gulf oil because of offshore drilling in the North Sea. It gets its oil today from Norway and Scotland.

    In fact, one company, Maersk, which is 60% of the entire Danish economy, owns parts of several of those offshore oil fields and platforms, as well as an oil tanker business, and a crude oil wholesale business.


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