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"The Sum Of All Lobbies"
That's how energy expert Gail Luft refers to the new energy bill in Thomas Friedman's column.


Keep on hoggin'!

Friedman rightly goes after our best-friend-to-the-oilmen-in-chief, who managed to put out energy policy without so much as a "please come up with more energy-efficient cars" to the auto companies:

The White House? It blocked an amendment that would have required the president to find ways to cut oil use by a million barrels a day by 2015 - on the grounds that it might have required imposing better fuel economy on our carmakers.

We need a strategic approach to energy. We need to redesign work so more people work at home instead of driving in; we need to reconfigure our cars and mass transit; we need a broader definition of what we think of as fuel. And we need a tax policy that both entices, and compels, U.S. firms to be innovative with green energy solutions. This is going to be a huge global industry - as China and India become high-impact consumers - and we should lead it.

Many technologies that could make a difference are already here - from hybrid engines to ethanol. All that is needed is a gasoline tax of $2 a gallon to get consumers and Detroit to change their behavior and adopt them. As Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, noted, auto fuel economy peaked at 26.5 miles per gallon in 1986, and "we've been going backward every since" - even though we have the technology to change that right now. "This is not rocket science," he rightly noted. "It's auto mechanics."

It's also imagination. "During the 1973 Arab oil embargo Brazil was importing almost 80 percent of its fuel supply," notes Luft, director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

"Within three decades it cut its dependence by more than half. During that period the Brazilians invested massively in a sugar-based ethanol industry to the degree that about a third of the fuel they use in their vehicles is domestically grown. They also created a fleet that can accommodate this fuel."

Half the new cars sold this year in Brazil will run on any combination of gasoline and ethanol. "Bringing hydrocarbons and carbohydrates to live happily together in the same fuel tank," Luft added, "has not only made Brazil close to energy independence, but has also insulated the Brazilian economy from the harming impact of the current spike in oil prices."

The new energy bill includes support for corn-based ethanol, but, bowing to the dictates of the U.S. corn and sugar lobbies (which oppose sugar imports), it ignores Brazilian-style sugar-based ethanol, even though it takes much less energy to make and produces more energy than corn-based ethanol. We are ready to import oil from Saudi Arabia but not sugar from Brazil.

The sum of all lobbies.

It seems as though only a big crisis will force our country to override all the cynical lobbies and change our energy usage. I thought 9/11 was that crisis. It sure was for me, but not, it seems, for this White House, Congress or many Americans. Do we really have to wait for something bigger in order to get smarter?

UPDATED: Here's a pertinent link: Why America Is More Dependent Than Ever on Saudi Arabia...complete with a darling photo of Cheney playing kissyface with King Abdullah:

"As the world's largest producer and as the world's largest consumer, our two countries have a special relationship," Samuel W. Bodman, the secretary of energy, said earlier this year after meeting in Washington with his Saudi counterpart, Ali al-Naimi. "We are, at least in certain respects, partners." sweet!

Posted by aalkon at August 6, 2005 8:55 AM

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Just how imaginative is it to propose yet another tax as a solution? Existing taxes collect billions, which then are looted to do other things than administer transportation issues. Is anyone going to tell me that won't happen when taxes are raised?

Please note that high alcohol content is not compatible with the current line of PZEV engines, like the one in my Sentra, and that emissions, being different, require different treatment. You will note that diesels have different standards, and that multi-fuel vehicles like Ford's FFV line have relaxed standards, since it was decided that burning something other than regular gasoline was important enough to allow that.

I am surprised to see a lack of advocacy for trains. Possibly that is because there is so much hype and resultant dishonesty about "bullet" and "high-speed" trains. You'll certainly get more noise about a tax on gas, because then, those who work just can't get to work in rural America - period.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 6, 2005 4:52 AM

But maybe a gas tax isn't a solution -- I'm not big on taxes. But, our president, with all his political capital after 9-11 might have rah-rahed for saving energy, for car companies creating cars that use less energy and alternative energy...for so much more. But he didn't. That's the last thing he wants to do, clearly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2005 7:01 AM

Bush did indeed blow it by not asking the country to make this small sacrifice after 9/11 -and he had the ideal conditions in which to do so. Instead he just asked everyone to keep shopping and go about their daily activities - what a waste of goodwill.

Posted by: Dmac at August 6, 2005 7:36 AM

Amy, the energy bill passed overwhelmingly in the senate by an 82-12 vote. George Bush isn't even a Senator yet you blame him???

I knew your update about the US becoming more dependent on Saudi oil smelled fishy. I surfed on over to Instapundit and he had the proof:

The U.S. is less dependent on Saudi oil than ever before.

Posted by: nash at August 6, 2005 11:54 AM

Possibly the most telling sentences above are about CAFE. As you may recall, the public discovered that driveability and power were superior if they could just get used to driving a bigger vehicle. The view is better from up there, and no one looking at hubcaps before could resist the illusion of safety they got from looking down on traffic from their truck or sport-ute.

The nation *should* have been asking about this ever since the '70's "energy crisis", which lost its impact and its lesson the moment it was "solved". Today, I want a plain pickup truck that I can wash out with a hose, and which has a decent gearbox and a V6. I have to build it myself, because the public has decreed that it wants leather, a CD changer and other crap, including a plastic interior.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 6, 2005 12:45 PM

We're dependent on oil, period. And the president is doing little to end that dependence. In any way, shape, or form.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2005 2:28 PM

> And the president is doing little to end
> that dependence.

Ain't what he was hired for. You followed that link of Nash's, right? That NYT article is plainly fraudulent....

Posted by: Crid at August 6, 2005 6:41 PM

What was the idiot hired for? I didn't hire him.

Posted by: Diana at August 6, 2005 8:21 PM

We're dependent enough.

What was he hired for? To send people's kids to die to take out Saddam instead of going after Bin Laden? To ring in fundamentalism and snuff out science? Just to name a few.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2005 8:41 PM

Amy, it's hard to take you seriously when you can't admit you are wrong. Yes, it's a bad energy bill. But it got bipartisan support, meaning both parties are corrupt and/or incompetent. And it does little to reduce our dependence on oil. But we are less dependent on Saudi oil than ever before. How about throwing us a little bone here and putting that in an update?

Posted by: nash at August 7, 2005 8:47 AM

Yes, both parties are corrupt and disgusting. But, I'm especiallly disgusted with this president. He has yet to even utter a peep about energy conservation, much less do anything about it. I mean, other than send other people's kids to war.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 7, 2005 9:37 AM

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