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Friday, August 06, 2004

Kerry's Energy Independence Proposal

Cyndy is pretty excited about Kerry's energy proposal; I'm not so sure. I left a way-too-long comment over at her MouseMusings blog, and you know that I rarely write anything that long without posting it here too! Since it's me talking, I'll post it "unquoted."

I hate to be negative all the time, and I wouldn't say there's no difference, and I'm gonna hold my nose and vote for him, but Kerry's energy plan is nothing to get excited about. Since we currently import well over half of our oil, going to 20% alternative fuels by 2020 still leaves us needing lots of imported oil. As far as I can tell, the only part of the plan that could truly be called "conservation" is the higher-mileage cars. But replacing the entire fleet of cars with new ones will use immense amounts of energy, and the newer cars will be unaffordable for the ever-growing majority of people for whom a $5000 tax credit is a sick joke (How do you take a $5000 credit on a $9000 income--will it apply to payroll taxes?). Notice too that it puts huge amounts of cash in the hands of the people who got us in this mess in the first place--the Big Three. First they make billions ignoring CAFE standards and building SUVs, and then Kerry's going to pay them to switch to hybrids. No wonder they haven't already! Also, oil companies like BP and Shell are already starting to dominate the solar energy market. It's win-win for these guys.

This really isn't all that different from Bush's hydrogen plans--give some money to corporations, and promise results years after my term is over. And while Kerry may mean it while Bush doesn't, Kerry won't be able to get his passed any time soon.

Also, note that Kerry is careful to call for "an end to our dependence on Middle East oil." (from his web site: Not "foreign oil," but "Middle East oil." So look out Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba...

If he's really serious about energy independence, his first mission as president is to give up any hope of being re-elected (the Dems would probably be thrilled to be able to run Obama or Edwards in 2008 anyway), because then he could do what is really necessary. IMHO, that is: 1) Get out of Iraq ASAP. Wars use immense amounts of energy and cause enormous amounts of pollution. 2) Raise the gas tax substantially. 3) Put the financial power in people's hands, not corporations--something like "transit stamps" that would provide free rides on buses, subways, trains, ferries, or any other mode of public transportation that substantially improves energy efficiency. The feds would pay a profitable fee per ride, encouraging the growth of mass transit, both public and private. Perhaps something similar for electricity and heating--subsidize solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, and so on for poor people, rather than offering tax credits that only the wealthy can benefit from. And certainly better than giving the money to BP and Shell so they can buy out the competition and keep the prices high enough so they can still sell their oil.

A good energy plan would focus on conservation first and foremost. Improved gas mileage won't cut our usage of oil if we keep increasing the number of miles driven. Stopping sprawl, subsidizing mass transit at the expense of personal transit, seeing that the simplest and most effective conservation methods (compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example) are immediately implemented on a massive scale, and so on.

Kerry-Edwards '04. woohoo.