Monday, February 14, 2005

Fuel-Guzzling American energy policy has tied our hands

Believe me, there is nothing I find sexier than a man who drives a truck. However, it really drives me nuts that gas consumption in America is so insanely high and doesn't need to be. Everytime I return to Los Angeles, I am amazed at how many people there are sitting alone in their cars...and these cars aren't tiny...usually they are some form of SUV or other gas-guzzling contraption. And although they call LA a jungle, you certainly don't need a 4x4 to navigate through its wild streets. The car-pool lanes are almost always empty, while the other lanes advance at a snail's pace. And the public transport system is a joke when compared to most European cities public transport.

Living in Europe I have seen what can also be done, without reducing one's quality of life. Car driving when living in a city is not desirable, because public transport is inevitably quicker and parking is impossible or expensive. Driving long distances is mostly done by train, if you are a single traveler, because driving would be more expensive (and once again this is usually the quicker way, not to mention less stressful). Gas here is 3-4 times the price in America. And when you do drive a car, it is usually a more efficient car, smaller than the average car in America.

I would definately say that this is one of my pet peeves, along with the American aversion to proper garbage disposal (preferring burying everything, because "hey, America is so big, we can always dig holes and bury our crap") and water conservation (in Los Angeles, one would almost think it is a constitutional right to have a green lawn and a fill swimming pool, and don't even mention water-recycling to them...they will yell back "from toilet to tap?" despite the fact that many places in the world (and the US) recycle their used water in some way or another).

Today I read a great article in the NY Times about how America's love affair with fuel guzzling practices is financing the same regimes we would wish to change:

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

In another article published a few weeks ago, the same journalist authored another piece, entitled "The geo-green alternative."

Yes, there is an alternative to the Euro-wimps and the neocons, and it is the ‘‘geo-greens’’. I am a geo-green. The geo-greens believe that, going forward, if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil — by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power — we will force more reform than by any other strategy. You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.

By refusing to rein in US energy consumption, the Bush team is not only depriving itself of the most effective lever for promoting internally driven reform in the Middle East, it is also depriving itself of any military option. As Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, points out, given today’s tight oil market and current US consumption patterns, any kind of US strike on Iran, one of the world’s major oil producers, would send the price of oil through the roof, causing real problems for our economy. ‘‘Our own energy policy has tied our hands,’’ Haass said.

The Bush team’s laudable desire to promote sustained reform in the Middle East will never succeed unless it moves from neocon to geo-green.

Obviously continuing with our current energy policy is more economically efficient in the short-term...but it really doesn't make sense to fight these regimes with one hand, but support them financially with the other. People should start seeing that reforming our energy policy isn't necessarily a Birkenstock-granola issue, but actually a (it might sound trite, but it's true) patriotic issue. Want to support the troops and help in the Global War on Terror? Well, a good start would be to stop indirectly financing the terrorists.


Blogger Chris said...

Well, if it's patriotic then 51% of the people here should be for it :) Just trying to throw some humor around.

I agree with you on this. I have felt all along that America should have placed a war tax on gasoline on Sept. 12, 2001. But we didn't. I also felt like Bush should have called for greater risks and rationing by the America people also; as well as calling for 200,000 volunteers to the military. But if you notice, I'm not the president either.

We sort of defeat the purpose of waging a war on terrorism if we keep feeding their habit, which is oil. 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and we are still their largest trading partner.

Changes have taken place in Saudi Arabia, though; but not near enough.

We do need to lessing our dependence on oil. I also agree about European public transportation, ours doesn't even compare to it.

Thanks for posting a comment on my site too.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

"believe me there is nothing i find sexier than driving a truck" come on, don't give truck drivers a bigger head than they already have. believe me, those guys are no good, unless they're in the service, then they're cool. for the most part, we guys in the four-door sedans are much hotter.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Gassenfenster said...

"You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran."

This unfortunately isn´t true (anymore). Today China´s demand would replace the lack of oil demand of the US in no time.

So, while you may still argue that saving fuel is a good idea because it reduces your dependency on the middle east, it won´t change much in those regions.

7:24 PM  

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