The Ergosphere
Saturday, January 07, 2006
 

Thomas Friedman gets on board

In an NYTimes piece that's not freely available on-line (but summarized by WattHead), Thomas Friedman shows that he's gotten with the program.  Some excerpts of excerpts:

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.

Living green is ... a national security imperative.

... there's a huge difference between what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared to $60-a-barrel oil....

We need a persident and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with longterm incentives for renewable energies - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Large chunks of this could have come out of Petroleum independence as a growth engine.  I doubt that Mr. Friedman read it, or has even heard of this blog, but it shows how far these ideas are starting to penetrate.

I would be thrilled if he'd paid any attention to me, but it doesn't matter.  There's a positive vision opposed to the oil interests represented by Bush and Cheney.  People who read nothing more technical than the NYTimes editorial page are learning that we can do more than just pay money to terrorists for the privilege of driving.  We might do something about our deteriorating balance of payments and take power away from corrupt elements world-wide.  Damn, that feels good!

 
Comments:
I agreed with much of what he said except for the regressive tax.

All the Big Oil stockholders would shrug at paying more while others would worry how they now are to make ends meet with higher prices.

On the other hand, higher prices have resulted in increased use of public transportation.

Somehow it seems ironic that a tax to encourage conservation would go into the public coffers to help pay for an oil war.
 
Everyone keeps calling gas taxes "regressive".  Don't the rich consume much more fuel (directly and indirectly) than the poor?  A simple deductible on payroll taxes would make the total effect rather progressive, while greatly increasing incentives to economize or switch.
 
If you are really poor, you don't own a car and pay zero petrol taxes.

The people paying a lot are exurbanites, the "upper" middle class (or those who'd like to think of themselves as such) who live in the middle of nowhere in a country house with a big garden and who need to go everywhere by car. They'll need two cars, and will do 20,000 to 30,000 miles each in them (not least to ferry their kids round, to go visit friends and family all over the country every second weekend and to get to work, some 20 to 30 miles away). And they want to do this in a big "safe" car.

So, in the US they'll have 2 large SUV's, doing 15 mpg each and might consume 3000 gallons. They'll get hit to the tune of $15,000 by a $5 tax. An elderly couple on low income doing their shopping once a week a mile away might do 2000 miles per year, if that, in a 30 mpg car. They'll use 67 gallons and get hit to the tune of $350, easily sortable out through redistributing some of the tax to people on low incomes.

The gas tax would only be regressive for the super rich, as they'd pay little compared to their enormous resources, but that's hardly an argument against high taxes on petrol.
 
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