Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I actually kinda want one. Sincerely, not Satirically.

In Barack Obama's energy speech yesterday, he said: "For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time."

Paul Krugman's comment was: "Now that’s more like it — a hard-hitting political speech with a solid policy proposal behind it." Krugman is of course more Keynesian than most, but the proposals at least demonstrate that Obama wants to move in a direction of less reliance on oil.

There are a few misleading policies among them, including Obama's call "to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption..." Unfortunately, the fastest and easiest way to reduce demand for energy is to... make it cost more.

Some of the less-aesthetic policies might be rationalized by asserting that our culture is in quite a rough spot with our oil-based infrastructure, and that some extra effort is needed to dig our way out. If, for example, people payed the true cost of the gasoline they burn, they wouldn't need a $7000 tax credit to motivate them to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle (150mpg, according to his 6-year goal). But a "tax credit" for hybrids is far more politically palatable than "carbon tax," (true to the proverb that a Republican cannot say "tax" without adding "cut," and a Democrat cannot without adding "on the rich.")

Before the speech, Obama received some heat for conceding that he might consider the off-shore drilling currently supported by McCain if it were part of a compromise in a broader energy package. This sort of concession is apparently being encouraged in Congress by Nancy Pelosi. Quote, "Behind the scenes she’s encouraging vulnerable Democrats to express their independence if it helps them politically." Her assumption is that, in 2009, her party will have expanded their majority in both houses, and will be able to pass legislation more along the lines of the broader energy package that Obama is now proposing.

McCain, supporting proposals such as offshore drilling and nuclear power, is poking fun at the "low-hanging fruit" in Obama's proposals: that all drivers keep their cars tuned up and tires properly inflated. His jest is through sending out tire-pressure gauges as pictured above. However, this concern is wholly non-partisan. Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have insisted upon it, was well as, well, NASCAR. And while off-shore drilling could meet roughly "1% of our demand two decades from now... keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%."

If only they made the tire gauge with a presta valve.

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