Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fueling America

Fire of Liberty

Now while I'm not ecstatic about McCain's stance on Global Warming, I've got to say that "the Maverick" is firing on all cylinders on his energy policy when he notes that the nation has got to start drilling for more oil, building greater nuclear power plants while also advocating free-market approaches to alternative fuels, hybrids, as well as his $300 million prize to anyone who can develop a battery that can power a car some 100 miles or further. Anything beats the top down government knows best energy policies being proposed by the junior Senator of Illinois. I believe that the WSJ sums up the lofty yet unattainable(At least in his ten year window) rhetoric on energy in its August 6, 2008 editorial "The Green Hornet." Here's a look:
Mr. Obama also says he wants to mandate that all new cars and trucks are "flexible fuel" vehicles, meaning that they can run on higher concentrations of corn ethanol mixed with gasoline, or second-generation biofuels if those ever come onto the market. Like wind and solar, this would present major land use problems: According to credible estimates, land areas larger than the size of Texas would need to be planted with fuel feedstocks to displace just half the oil America imports every day. Meanwhile, the economic distortions caused by corn ethanol -- such as higher food prices -- have been bad enough.

And yet there's more miracle work to do. Mr. Obama promises to put at least one million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. That's fine if consumers want to buy them. But even if technical battery problems are overcome, this would only lead to "fuel switching" -- if cars don't use gasoline, the energy still has to come from somewhere. And the cap-and-trade program also favored by Mr. Obama would effectively bar new coal plants, while new nuclear plants are only now being planned after a 30-year hiatus thanks to punishing regulations and lawsuits.

Problems like these are the reality of "alternative" energy, and they explain why every "energy independence" plan has faltered since the 1970s. But just because Mr. Obama's plan is wildly unrealistic doesn't mean that a program of vast new taxes, subsidies and mandates wouldn't be destructive. The U.S. has a great deal invested in fossil fuels not because of a political conspiracy or because anyone worships carbon but because other sources of energy are, right now, inferior.

Consumption isn't rising because of wastefulness. The U.S. produces more than twice as much GDP today per unit of energy as it did in the 1950s, yet energy use has risen threefold. That's because energy use is tethered to growth, and the economy continues to innovate and expand. Mr. Obama seems to have other ideas.

I for one hope that Senator McCain continues to promote his pro growth and greater domestic energy production ideas during this period of $4 gas.

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