Re: Energy and "the Clash of Civilizations" -- a policy thought problem

Date: Sat Sep 29 2001 - 01:16:14 MDT

Greg Burch wrote:
> Assume that you are George W. Bush's senior science policy adivosor. (This
> means that you are NOT an anarcho-capitalist or even a libertarian -- try it
> as an exercise for fun.) Now assume that you have become convinced (which
> wouldn't be hard to do) that one of the most rigid constraints on US foreign
> policy is the industrialized world's dependence on Middle Eastern oil. In
> recent briefings you have become despondent over the intractable nature of
> the conflict between the Enlightenment cultural values you hold as a
> scientist and the Islamic revivalist movement that is the most dynamic
> political and social force throughout that region. You want to propose some
> means of decreasing the West's dependence on fossil fuels.
> Question: What would you propose?

Oil will continue to be favored as long as it's far cheaper to use. Given
staggering investments already into finding alternative energy sources, the
chance of any pet project replacing oil is next to nil. So the only solution
is to tax oil and natural gas heavily, to the point where imports aren't
necessary. I don't know the numbers, but I'd guesstimate 3-4 dollars
per gallon of gas equivalent would do the trick. Most adjustments to reduce
oil consumption, such as car gas mileage, transportation arrangements, and
siting decisions, have long lead times, so the taxes should be imposed
Again, it would be complex to balance disruption vs. independence, but offhand
I'd say over 10 years, which covers a car's useful cycle. So the guideline is
to raise taxes on oil and gas until imports start, with a rough estimate of
35 cents per gallon of gas equivalent until imports stop. 10 years would also
give enough to time to replace oil-burning power plants with whatever works

This doesn't fix Europe and Japan, of course, but changing how they live is
not in the control of the US gov't, and I'm supposed to be making
to W.

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