Monday, August 11, 2008

Fisking Bachmann's Energy "Policy"

H/T to Ollie for pointing this one out...

A LTE appears in the Marshall Independent, taking Congresswoman Bachmann to task for her flawed energy "policy".
In his letter to the editor on Thursday, July 31, George Korver repeats Rep. Bachmann's claim that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a "barren wasteland" because, among other things, it has no trees. We are lucky that Ms. Bachmann is not our representative - what would she make of our treeless prairies?

However, the real problem with Rep. Bachmann's argument is her assumption that tapping ANWR will bring gasoline back down to $2 a gallon. This is unlikely, even if off-shore drilling is added to the mix - a proposal advocated by the Fairmont Sentinel in an editorial reprinted in the Independent on Monday. Fuel prices have gone up because of increased demand in China and India, where capitalism has taken off in recent years, creating industrial growth and a growing middle class. People in these countries have embraced the post-World War II U.S. model for economic growth, but have also embraced many of the material aspects of that growth, including the desire for a family car (and for more animal protein - which, as any informed farmer will tell you, is the principle reason for higher grain and fertilizer prices worldwide).

For instance, nearly 30 percent of the population of India is now considered "middle class," a small percentage compared to the U.S., but when one considers that the total population of India is 1 billion, one realizes that India's middle class is now as large as the entire population of the United States. If they own and operate cars like we do in the U.S. - a growing possibility, given that one Indian automobile manufacturer is now planning to produce a car that sells for $3,000 -the demand for oil and gas resources worldwide will increase exponentially, which means that Rep. Bachmann's dream of returning to $2-a-gallon gas is that much less likely. After all, drilling off-shore and in ANWR would only produce a "drop-in-the-bucket" which may temporarily lessen the U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but it would not even come close to completely ending that dependence, even in the short-term.

There are chiefly two ways to lower gas prices: reduce consumption and replace the gas-powered internal combustion engine. We have dramatically seen how reducing consumption has lowered gas prices this summer - it is the chief reason that the price-per-gallon has dropped more than 30 cents since June. This is nearly unprecedented: when was the last time we witnessed a drop in gas prices in the middle of summer? U.S. consumers are responding to high gas prices by driving more efficient cars and using them less. The government can help lower consumption further by supporting and subsidizing more public transportation. Imagine what would happen to the price per gallon if all the folks in the Twin Cities left their cars at home and starting taking buses and light rail - we here in southwest Minnesota would see lower gas prices in a jiffy. This will also create jobs.

We can expect auto-makers - both here and abroad - to respond to high gas prices by increasing fuel efficiency in their products, but government has a role to play by encouraging the research and development of even more fuel efficient technology, with the goal of replacing as much as possible the use of oil and gasoline. This private sector-government cooperation brought us the technological innovations of the 1990s, with its ensuing economic boom led by U.S. citizens. The current energy and food crises offers us an opportunity to change the world economy positively through improved technology and more efficient consumption; our example can also improve the energy efficiency of the growing economies of China and India as well. It is exciting to think how the people of this country can be leaders in this transformation.

The alternative - continuing to embrace 20th-century habits and technologies as implied by drilling for more oil - will only stall the inevitable, and can even have far more dangerous consequences: competing for scarce energy resources could very well lead to a Third World War. I prefer not to contribute to such an apocalypse, and I am sure Mr. Korver does not want to either.

I would caution Mr. Korver from being taken in by Rep. Bachmann's flawed logic on the energy question. She certainly seems to be advocating the position of the oil companies, who would benefit enormously by encouraging consumption and by drilling off-shore and in ANWR. I wonder who paid for her junket to ANWR anyway?

Thomas J. Williford
History professor, Southwest Minnesota State University

Bachmann's lock step march with fringe Republicans and Big Oil is no surprise to her constituents. She's been AWOL for nearly 2 years in CD 6, holding no forums or townhall meetings to discuss matters with those she "represents".

Enjoy your "vacation" Congresswoman Bachmann, while your colleagues hold golf fundraisers and you gallivant across the US to discuss energy in Alaska and New Orleans, you leave your constituents behind.

1 comment:

Jeff Rosenberg said...

This guy is spot on about drilling. The numbers don't lie; even the Bush administration says drilling in ANWR will only move gas prices by about $1 per barrel... by 2030!

Here's the link to the study (it's a PDF)