The Deprivation Path Towards a Politically Correct (and Possibly Non-Existent) Fuel
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama week showed off an expensive electric car with a short driving range and a nice taxpayer subsidy. On a tangential but important issue, Slate’s Charles Lane is correctly not happy about the latter aspect of this vehicle.
… this little runabout is a rich man’s ride.
And that’s my problem with the Obama administration’s energy policy, or at least with his lavish subsidies for the Volt, Nissan’s all-electric Leaf (likely sticker price $33,000), and Tesla’s $100,000 all-electric Roadster: Where does the federal government get off spending the average person’s tax dollars to help better-off-than-average Americans buy expensive new cars?
As the president pushes what he hopes are the wheels of the future, his EPA is pressing ahead with the president’s dream to make electricity rates for that vehicle (and all electric powered necessities) “skyrocket” by imposing draconian new regulations – to possibly include Superfund financial assurance requirements on utilities?? – on the mining of the most cheap, plentiful (DOMESTIC) fuel available to generate electricity, coal.
Meanwhile, as Mario Loyola points out, highlighted by Justin, the Obama administration is not letting a crisis go to waste; it is creating “a hostile regulatory environment for oil extraction”, obviously to try to slow or halt domestic oil drilling.
Via these measures and others, including a rose-by-any-other-name version of cap and trade still quietly lurking on Capitol Hill, the president is attempting to use government power to test the theory, popular among greenies, that if we take fossil fuels out of the picture (in part, by artificially raising the price and making them too expensive to use) to a sufficient degree, another fuel supply, as abundant and economical as fossil fuels but non-polluting, will be invented.
But in point of fact, only one new significant energy source – nukuler – has been discovered since man began using fossil fuels in earnest. (And this source has been deemed unacceptable by those who demand that we abandon fossil fuels). Speaking for myself, if the price of fossil fuels is jacked, I’m in no position to discover that break-through alternate power source. As for polluting less via additional conservation measures, having installed a timer thermostat, twirly lightbulbs and downsized from eight to four cylinders, I had already made my life energy efficient to the max years ago – probably true for most of us. Accordingly, I would be able to do nothing more to dodge artificially high energy prices but would be pointlessly dispensing money that could go to retirement or, heaven forbid, household necessities.
So leave it to the scientists, is the logical suggestion. But deprivation advocates have left one very important factor out of their theory: the possibility – indeed, likelihood – that the Magical, Mystery Fuel may not be found. Keep in mind its required characteristics: potent yet with energy that is easily released, plentiful, widely available, comparatively inexpensive to extract, not polluting and “acceptable”; i.e., no nuke-type sources need apply. This is quite a tall order, even for our best-funded, most talented scientists.
Depriving people of a needed commodity does not insure that they will buckle down and invent a substitute. This approach becomes even more problematic when it is not at all clear that a substitute, politically correct or otherwise, is out there waiting to be discovered.