Sunday, March 27, 2005
Thomas Friedman thinks so. His support is two-fold:
By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases.
. . . .
Finally, by doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are only hastening the climate change crisis, and the Bush officials who scoff at the science around this should hang their heads in shame. And it is only going to get worse the longer we do nothing. Wired magazine did an excellent piece in its April issue about hybrid cars, which get 40 to 50 miles to the gallon with very low emissions. One paragraph jumped out at me: "Right now, there are about 800 million cars in active use. By 2050, as cars become ubiquitous in China and India, it'll be 3.25 billion. That increase represents ... an almost unimaginable threat to our environment. Quadruple the cars means quadruple the carbon dioxide emissions - unless cleaner, less gas-hungry vehicles become the norm."
Are we supporting the jihadists and the mosques that support them through our oil purchases? Perhaps, they probably get some money from our oil purchases. But it also buys us something else (absent U.N. scandal ridden programs being in charge) - control and power. The U.S. only has power and control (and allies) in the Middle East arab states becuase we are the primary oil market. Through this power and control we are slowly changing the Middle East and pushing it toward democracy. So our high oil purchases are probably both good and bad - a push at best.

As far as the environment, I do not doubt that pollution from automobiles has effects, I don't think we really have any clue what those effects will be long-term (it could be worse than scientist/environmentalist claim, it could be much less of an effect than they claim - the "science" behind these studies is flimsy at best if for no other reason than we don't have data for more than a hundred years or so (a blink of the eye in terms of the planet's history) - this doesn't mean the environmentalist are wrong - it just means they really don't know if they are right or wrong). But that said, oil prices have gone up considerably due to market forces, yet Americans are still buying their SUVs. But other Americans are buying hybrids - by choice. I feel the market will slowly but surely push automakers to build more hybrids and more efficient vehicles generally. As far as China and India there is (realistically speaking) nothing the U.S. can do about that. But on a larger point, the vast majority of the world's pollution is caused (0r soon will be caused) by third-world countries I believe. So while it might be vogue to attack Americans for their inefficient cars - the real problem lies elsewhere in the world.

As far as a gas-tax, I am not personally against such a policy - but I do wonder if it would really be effective. Higher gas prices might make consumers buy more efficient cars. Or it might not change the buying habits of the above average income families, and it might force the lower income families to buy older, less efficient, cars, or keep their less-efficient cars longer in order to afford gas. It could actually increase pollution.

So in short, while I think there is much to doubt in Friedman's analysis - I don't see any downside to Bush being a bit more "geo-green." But as with many of their arguments, the environmentalists really need to think deeper about what other effects the policies they push will have. And whether they will be effective at all.
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I am an attorney in Chicago. Politically speaking, I am an indepedent that tends to lean conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues. I try to remain as unbiased and open-minded as possible. Please email or post any comments, and especially criticisms. If something I say is wrong, or you disagree - let me know about it!



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