We haven’t spoken much about the Energy Party lately, what with being obsessed with the economy and all (see, I told y’all this wouldn’t be fun before we started). Thank goodness, Tom Friedman took the time earlier this week to get us back on track by touting a key plank of the Party platform, in a piece headlined “Real men tax gas.” An excerpt:
But are we really that tough? If the metric is a willingness to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and consider the use of force against Iran, the answer is yes. And we should be eternally grateful to the Americans willing to go off and fight those fights. But in another way – when it comes to doing things that would actually weaken the people we are sending our boys and girls to fight – we are total wimps. We are, in fact, the wimps of the world. We are, in fact, so wimpy our politicians are afraid to even talk about how wimpy we are.
How so? France today generates nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and it has managed to deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or panics. And us? We get about 20 percent and have not been able or willing to build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or neighbors. We’re too afraid to store nuclear waste deep in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain – totally safe – at a time when French mayors clamor to have reactors in their towns to create jobs. In short, the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power, despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover.
How about Denmark? Little Denmark, sweet, never-hurt-a-fly Denmark, was hit hard by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 1973, Denmark got all its oil from the Middle East. Today? Zero. Why? Because Denmark got tough. It imposed on itself a carbon tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax, made massive investments in energy efficiency and in systems to generate energy from waste, along with a discovery of North Sea oil (about 40 percent of its needs).
And us? When it comes to raising gasoline taxes or carbon taxes – at a perfect time like this when prices are already low – our politicians tell us it is simply “off the table.” So I repeat, who is the real tough guy here?
As Friedman correctly asserts, raising the gas tax would be a “win, win, win, win, win” that would make us “physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier.” But none of our politicians, of either party, have the guts even to bring up the subject, because they can hear the voters screaming at them with all the mature outrage evinced in this unrelated, but hilarious, commercial (only instead of screaming, “I want those sweeties,” we’d be hollering, “We want our cheap gas!”)
Anyway, I posted something on Twitter about the Friedman column earlier this week, and Doug Ross responded on Facebook. I’ll share our exchange here just to get the blog discussion going:
Doug RossReal men must like double digit inflation, high food prices, and punishing low income Americans who need to drive to workBrad WarthenWe love all that stuff. We just don’t like quiche.
Did you read the piece?Doug RossI did read the article. He says he wants to take 10 cents of each dollar and give it to “the poor” to cushion the $1 per gallon cost. What about the people who aren’t “poor” who will see their fuel costs go up by several thousand dollars a year? and the increase in cost of every single item that is manufactured and transported. it’s a recipe … Read Morefor economic disaster. Some of Friedman’s ideas go beyond “ivory tower” to the point where the people in the ivory towers have to crane their necks to see him.
We have all the money we need to do what Friedman wants currently in the federal coffers. Our political “leaders” choose to do other things.Brad WarthenBut raising the revenue isn’t the point; it’s just a side benefit.
The point is making ourselves more energy-independent so we stop underwriting the thugs of the world.
If France and Denmark can do it, so can we.Doug RossOh, if we could just be like Denmark and France!!! Apparently that’s the new American Dream