Friday, January 20, 2006

More From Friedman

Tom Friedman is back on energy policy today:

Friends, we are in the midst of an energy crisis - but this is not your grandfather's energy crisis. No, this is something so much bigger, for four reasons.

First, we are in a war against a radical, violent stream of Islam that is fueled and funded by our own energy purchases. ...

Second, ... If we don't quickly move to renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, we will warm up, smoke up and choke up this planet far faster than at any time in the history of the world. Katrina will look like a day at the beach.

Third, because of the above, green energy-saving technologies and designs - for cars, planes, homes, appliances or office buildings - will be one of the biggest industries of the 21st century.

Finally, if we continue to depend on oil, we are going to undermine the whole democratic trend that was unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. ... Indeed, this $60-a-barrel boom in the hands of criminal regimes, and just plain criminals, will, if sustained, pose a bigger threat to democracies than communism or Islamism. It will be a black tide that turns back the democratic wave everywhere, including in Iraq.

The one thing we can do now to cope with all four of these trends is to create a tax that fixes the pump price at $3.50 to $4 a gallon - no matter where the OPEC price goes. Because if consumers know that the price of oil is never coming down, they will change their behavior. And when consumers change their behavior in a big way, G.M., Ford and DaimlerChrysler will change their cars in a big way, and it is cars and trucks that consume a vast majority of the world's oil.

The more Detroit goes green, the faster it will be propelled down the innovation curve, making it more likely that Detroit - and not Toyota or Honda or the Chinese - will dominate the green technologies of the 21st century. A permanent gasoline tax will also make solar, wind and biofuels so competitive with oil that it will drive their innovations as well.

George Bush may think he is preserving the American way of life by rejecting a gasoline tax. But if he does not act now - starting with his State of the Union speech - he will be seen as the man who presided over the decline of our way of life.


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