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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Running out of gas

"George W. Bush and John Kerry probably differ more on energy policy than on any major issue except abortion, yet news organizations have said barely a word about their positions. Energy policy ought to be a limelight issue this election year. Congress has not passed an energy bill in more than a decade. Oil consumption and oil imports continue to rise. Natural gas prices are high and supplies are tight. Average fuel efficiency of new cars is the lowest in 15 years. The United States continues to supplicate to Persian Gulf dictators for petroleum. And greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel use continue to accumulate...

If elected president, Kerry might be the nation's first executive since Jimmy Carter to offer meaningful reform in energy policy. Today, Carter is remembered as a well-meaning bumbler, but his energy decisions had historic impact. Carter deregulated oil and natural gas while imposing a big increase in vehicle MPG. These actions converted the oil and gas shortages of the 1970s into the surpluses of the 1980s, and cracked the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (opec) 'price maintenance' monopoly...

In four years, Bush has done nothing to change America's craving for Gulf oil. Bush has opposed significant strengthening of MPG standards for vehicles, continued to hold SUVs and the misnamed 'light' pickups to lower MPG strictures than regular cars, continued to exempt some altogether, and enacted a tax break for those who buy the heaviest SUVs...

Official overall mileage of new U.S. vehicles rose from about 14 MPG in the late '70s to a peak of 22 MPG in 1987 and has since declined to 21 MPG... Weaning ourselves from Gulf oil or combating the greenhouse effect only seems impossible today because we have not yet tried to face these challenges. With a wise and forward-looking energy policy, we can preserve our comfortable lifestyle and protect the climate. But nothing will happen until genuine changes in energy policy are made. Western society is living in a pleasant interregnum, during which fossil energy is cheap and artificial global warming has so far done no harm. Neither condition is likely to last. John Kerry proposes to act while there is yet time; George W. Bush proposes to leave the problems for someone else."

-Gregg Easterbrook, The New Republic

Full story here.


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