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9/11 and 4/11

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By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: July 20, 2008

I am reliably told by a Bush administration official that there is an old saying in Texas that goes like this: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”
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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman
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Could anyone possibly come up with a better description of President Bush’s energy policy? America is in the midst of its worst energy crisis in years and what is the big decision our Decider has decided? Drum roll, please: Our Decider decided to lift the executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline — even though he knew this was a meaningless gesture because a Congressional moratorium on drilling passed in 1981 remains in force.

The economist Paul Romer once said to me that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” President Bush is well on his way to being remembered as the leader who wasted not one but two crises: 9/11 and 4/11. The average price of gasoline in the U.S. last week, according to the Energy Information Administration, was $4.11.

After 9/11, Mr. Bush had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on breaking our addiction to oil. Instead, he told us to go shopping. After gasoline prices hit $4.11 last week, he had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on clean energy. Instead, he told us to go drilling.

Neither shopping nor drilling is the solution to our problems.

What doesn’t the Bush crowd get? It’s this: We don’t have a “gasoline price problem.” We have an addiction problem. We are addicted to dirty fossil fuels, and this addiction is driving a whole set of toxic trends that are harming our nation and world in many different ways. It is intensifying global warming, creating runaway global demand for oil and gas, weakening our currency by shifting huge amounts of dollars abroad to pay for oil imports, widening “energy poverty” across Africa, destroying plants and animals at record rates and fostering ever-stronger petro-dictatorships in Iran, Russia and Venezuela.

When a person is addicted to crack cocaine, his problem is not that the price of crack is going up. His problem is what that crack addiction is doing to his whole body. The cure is not cheaper crack, which would only perpetuate the addiction and all the problems it is creating. The cure is to break the addiction.

Ditto for us. Our cure is not cheaper gasoline, but a clean energy system. And the key to building that is to keep the price of gasoline and coal — our crack — higher, not lower, so consumers are moved to break their addiction to these dirty fuels and inventors are moved to create clean alternatives.

I understand why consumers think we have a gasoline price problem — because they are immediately hurt by higher gas prices and the pump is where most people touch our energy system. They tend not to see the bigger picture. But that is why you have a president: to explain that and lay out a response.

Alas, we have a president and a vice president who deny that climate change is hurting our environmental body, who refuse to see the connection between the dollars we are shifting abroad and the rise of petro-dictators, who do not care about biodiversity loss and who are apparently untroubled by the sharp decline in the dollar, partly because of all the money we are paying for oil imports. So, they have chosen to define this as a “gasoline price crisis” — not an-addiction-to-a-fuel-that-is-badly-hurting-us-as-a-nation crisis.

If you want to know what an alternative strategy might look like, read the speech that Al Gore delivered on Thursday to the bipartisan Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore, the alliance’s chairman, called for a 10-year plan — the same amount of time John F. Kennedy set for getting us to the moon — to shift the entire country to “renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources” to power our homes, factories and even transportation.

Mr. Gore proposed dramatically improving our national electricity grid and energy efficiency, while investing massively in clean solar, wind, geothermal and carbon-sequestered coal technologies that we know can work but just need to scale. To make the shift, he called for taxing carbon and offsetting that by reducing payroll taxes: Let’s “tax what we burn, not what we earn,” he said.

Whether you agree or not with Gore’s plan, at least he has a plan for dealing with the real problem we face — a multifaceted, multigenerational energy/environment/geopolitical problem.

This moment — $4.11 — represents Bush’s last chance for a legacy. It amazes me how inadequate his response has been. By hectoring the nation to simply drill for more oil, he has profoundly underestimated the challenges we face, misread the scale of the solutions required, underappreciated the American people’s willingness to sacrifice if presented with a real plan, and ignored the greatness that would accrue to our country if we led the world in clean power.
 

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nope. it' stil an oil price problem. oil isn't like crack. it's use isn't inheritly self destructive. hell, nearly half our oil is domestic. that certainly isn't funding terrorism.

his pointificating is akin to a vegan cheering on mad cow disease.

and al gore is a horrible example of a green advocate. the guy might as well burn barrels of used motor oil for as ungreen as he is
 

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Well said Jeremy

Just like the subject matter says - Jeremy makes a lot of sense. Too many people have not yet realized the end result of flagrant fuel waste--- more money than brains

I can only hope that people in 2020 will say how stupid we all were for burning this stuff.

How can we call ourselves a technologically advanced civilization when we base a lot of our mere existence on rotted vegetable and animal matter - boy - we aren't that smart after all. We are just plain greedy.

We have no hope at all unless we change our ways NOW and get off the black crap
 

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Thomas L. Friedman
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I understand why consumers think we have a gasoline price problem — because they are immediately hurt by higher gas prices and the pump is where most people touch our energy system. They tend not to see the bigger picture. But that is why you have a president: to explain that and lay out a response.
While higher fuel prices make most of us here grumble and tighten our belts a bit, Lower and lower middle class folks are really hurting by high fuel prices. Having it "explained" to them doesn't make it hurt any less. Keeping prices high and telling them to just suck it up and ride a bike or take the bus just doesn't cut it. Even if they understand the "big picture" it doesn't ease their pain one bit. It is far too easy for well off media people to tell America that they need tough love for the good of the country and the enviroment. The same people writing this kind of stuff probably can afford a Tesla or two Prius's. The rest of us need to drive what we can afford to work. End of story. Have some compassion for those less fortunate.

To make the shift, he called for taxing carbon and offsetting that by reducing payroll taxes: Let’s “tax what we burn, not what we earn,” he said.
Interesting idea except one little flaw. If this policy succeeds in it's objective of reducing fuel consumption, where does that leave the federal government? Lower payroll taxes being paid and lower carbon taxes being paid. The government goes deeper in debt. So what is likely to happen is the tax burden gets put right back on payroll or some other creative way to tax us. Net result is we pay the same taxes or even more, but get less.
 

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While higher fuel prices make most of us here grumble and tighten our belts a bit, Lower and lower middle class folks are really hurting by high fuel prices. Having it "explained" to them doesn't make it hurt any less.
This is a valid point because this is how almost everyone in America thinks. But having it "explained" is exactly what our leaders need to find the courage to do. Believe me, there is a lot more pain yet to come, and the longer we wait to understand, the more pain there will be. The question is,

Who Will Tell the People?
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/o...ef&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Truth or Consequences
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/o...11&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/o...d2&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

I'm not an historian, but it's still clear to me. When our country was at war on two fronts in 1943, the country was asked to sacrifice. You ask your parents or grandparents about food rationing.

Today, we are funding our enemies with our oil purchases, and the message from our fearless leader?

Spend.

More.
 

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Today, we are funding our enemies with our oil purchases, and the message from our fearless leader?

Spend.

More.
Actually it's drill more. So we can send less money to them.

Saying "we can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs" is great if you're the chef... not so much if you're the egg. Even worse when the chefs advocating breaking eggs consume a lot of eggs. coughGorecough. Sorry... got sidetracked.

Good energy policy is what gets us more energy for less. Saying we need to drill less is so counterintuitive to logic that I don't know how one could argue for it. It'd be like saying that we need to stop funding agro-corps and their huge eco-damaging footprint so we cut back on any large scale farms. Then telling Americans just to grow their own food. And those who can't...well you can't make an omelet...
 

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Actually it's drill more. So we can send less money to them.

Saying "we can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs" is great if you're the chef... not so much if you're the egg. Even worse when the chefs advocating breaking eggs consume a lot of eggs. coughGorecough. Sorry... got sidetracked.

Good energy policy is what gets us more energy for less. Saying we need to drill less is so counterintuitive to logic that I don't know how one could argue for it. It'd be like saying that we need to stop funding agro-corps and their huge eco-damaging footprint so we cut back on any large scale farms. Then telling Americans just to grow their own food. And those who can't...well you can't make an omelet...
People will definitely die due to food price increases. The poor countries will be hit the hardest but we'll feel it here too. How bad it get depends on how good the leadership is in the coming years. I'm talking about a well-planned energy policy that focuses on electric vehicles, public transit, solar and wind power. Corn ethanol will have to be quickly phased out in exchange for better biofuels that don't use farmland and give better returns. We'll see how that goes.
 

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Actually it's drill more. So we can send less money to them.
Let's be intellectually honest here. (Or are you watching too many campaign ads?) America has 3% of the world's oil at this point, and we use 25%. If we drill more, we're not going to find a lot more. Maybe it goes up to 3.5%?

This reminds me of the McCain proposal to cut the gas tax, which, like offshore drilling, would not have any meaningful impact on prices.

Dumb as We Wanna Be:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/o...36&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
 

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Let's be intellectually honest here. (Or are you watching too many campaign ads?) America has 3% of the world's oil at this point, and we use 25%. If we drill more, we're not going to find a lot more. Maybe it goes up to 3.5%?

This reminds me of the McCain proposal to cut the gas tax, which, like offshore drilling, would not have any meaningful impact on prices.QUOTE]

The problem with that argument is all numbers are essentially bullshit. They're estimates based upon what we figure we'll get to. Also looking at the raw numbers of produced versus consumed, there's no way it's 3% vs 25%. Things change based upon discovery though. Look at how proven reserves change pretty regularly on the market. And of course it helps. Look at the past and how the market reacts when we start doing anything about oil. It's a futures market.

Put it to you this way. We don't have to be 100% energy independent for the oil economy to be in shock. By increasing just a few percentage points our production vs consumption we would have an effect on the prices and speculators. If Venezuela, who ships most of their oil to us, saw us asking for a bit less... what effect do you think it'd have on them? They have us over the barrel on the demand curve.

And it's no coincidence that it takes 15-20 years for oil exploration to have a noticable effect on the market. You don't think the bad policy that got us here was put into effect the other day? This is all a holdover from the early 80s oil bust when "oil production" became a dirty word.
 

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looking at the raw numbers of produced versus consumed, there's no way it's 3% vs 25%. Things change based upon discovery though.
I stand corrected.

The correct data is:

The United States produces 10% of the world’s oil and consumes 24%, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The trend for US Domestic production has been going down steadily since 1970. We're not going to magically find a lot more US oil.
 

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Interesting idea except one little flaw. If this policy succeeds in it's objective of reducing fuel consumption, where does that leave the federal government? Lower payroll taxes being paid and lower carbon taxes being paid. The government goes deeper in debt. So what is likely to happen is the tax burden gets put right back on payroll or some other creative way to tax us. Net result is we pay the same taxes or even more, but get less.
God forbid the federal government budget ever actually shrink. I mean, where would we be today without the government to spend our hard earned money for us.

But here's some simple logic to follow. Less dependence on oil means fewer wars in the middle east, means less deficit spending. Less dependence on oil means fewer tax subsidies to oil companies for exploration and development of resources, means less deficit spending. Less dependence on oil means increase in alternative fuel production, which means more solar or biofuel generation which means more jobs in the good ol' US of A, which means lower unemployment, which means more taxes collected throughout the economy, which means less need for deficit spending.

Dependence on foreign sources of oil is not the root of all that ails the government in this country, but it is one of the problems whose fixing would patch a big hole in the purse.
 

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God forbid the federal government budget ever actually shrink.
Don't worry, it won't. If anything it will grow. The Democrats, who are likely to get to steer the ship for a while, seem bent and determined to turn America into a European state complete with regulations, controls and bans on everything except maybe porn, the press and the internet. they would also like to take over lots of currently privately run businesses. So lots of room for growth.

This idea that we can force people to stop using bad fuels and reduce energy consumption with taxation and then somehow not have that have a crippling effect on an economy that for the last 100 years or so has been built on energy consumption, seems very optimistic. Drive (walk or bike) down the main business area of your town. Think about how each of the businesses you see there and how they relate to oil. Carbon taxation will make it harder and harder for folks to get out and patronize these businesses. Costs of goods and services will go up and up. That in turn will make it tough for them to stay in business. A payroll tax credit isn't going to help folks much that aren't on a payroll anymore.

Good thing the government will have lots of job openings.
 

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If anything [the federal government budget] will grow. The Democrats, who are likely to get to steer the ship for a while, seem bent and determined to turn America into a European state
Nice theory, but not based in reality.

From "Conservatives Betrayed," by Richard Viguerie:

"... strip away defense, homeland security and entitlements and adjust for inflation, leaving only discretionary domestic spending ... when Bush's second term is over, there's every reason to expect that Bush will hold the record as the president who's grown the federal government at its fastest pace in modern times.

The numbers?

Johnson: 4.1 percent
Nixon/Ford: 5 percent
Carter: 1.6 percent
Reagan: 1.4 percent
Bush I: 3.8 percent
Clinton: 2.1 percent
Bush II: 4.8 percent"
 

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And lets not forget that the rising price of oil alone will hurt the economy more than a carbon tax. Businesses that rely on oil will are going to go under no matter what.
 

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Excellent Article

Thanks for the link Josh. I was expecting................................ the worst from the NYT.

One quote: "In the mid-1980s the oil industry suffered a terrible slump. Thousands of petroleum engineers were fired or left the business."

That was me and it hurt.

Excellent article; all 10,000 words of it :)

Put this on the back burner, your hard drive. Saudi Arabia is sitting on 260 billion barrels of oil, and there are a minimum of 170 billion barrels waiting to be tapped in the Alberta Tar Sands. I don't know what the break even price on crude is, but the tar sands area economy is booming. Its the next gold rush. New cities, airports, pipelines.
 
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