Saturday, February 04, 2006

Reactions to SOTU Energy Proposals

National Review Online is hostile to any government-sponsored energy initiatives:

Bush’s new Advanced Energy Initiative, which is charged with developing better batteries for electric cars and figuring out how to make fuel from wood chips, is redolent of all the past federal initiatives to find alternatives to oil and to gas-powered cars. Who can forget the glories of President Nixon’s Project Independence? Or Carter’s Synthetic Fuels Corporation? Or the first Bush’s U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium? Or Clinton’s Partnership for New Generation Vehicles? They all failed.

Conversely, The Christian Science Monitor posits that President Bush identified the linkage between national security and an oil-based economy:

As the world's largest oil user, the US must reduce oil consumption so that an Iran cannot easily wield an oil card to get a nuclear weapon. Or so a Saudi Arabia cannot allow oil profits to filter to terrorists. Or so a Venezuela can't throw oil money at anti-US regimes. Or so a Russia cannot cut off petroleum exports in a strategic dispute. Or, for that matter, so a hurricane like Katrina can't create an oil price spike.

The CSM editorial contains other tidbits that help illustrate why many conservatives cringe at the thought of government involvement in oil alternatives:

But to replace oil in the US energy mix, [the Federal]government needs to make sure the price of oil products remains high enough, or taxed enough, to help pay for oil alternatives. The switch to other sources will be expensive, and today's oil users must pay for it. They could, for instance, pay higher prices for more fuel-efficient vehicles, such as those running on hydrogen or electricity, or pay higher gas taxes on gasoline to fund nonoil subsidies (emphasis added).

Cynicism on the part of conservatives is understandable, especially when they can point to numerous energy initiatives that have failed miserably over the past three decades. One could argue that the affordability of oil during most of the last thirty years was the nail in the coffin of these undertakings, however.

One thing is clear, regardless of the ideology involved: our entire economic system is currently dependent upon the availability of petroleum products; a disruption of one or more suppliers could rapidly derail our economy faster than market forces could self-correct and adapt to a more affordable energy system. Therefore, the government must provide leadership when it comes to energy policy.




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