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August 24, 2005

Comments

Dave Schuler

What baffles me is why everyone is so opposed to our importing oil from Canada (which is where most of our imported oil comes from). If it's importing Gulf oil that bothers you, you might talk to the Chinese and Japanese.

nittypig

Oil is pretty fungible nowadays. Import less oil from Canada and the price of oil will drop and less money will go to Saudi princes and Iranian mullahs.

I think these regs, were they adopted would basically puch SUV buyers in heavier classes, excatly as current CAFE standards have pushed station wagon buyers into SUVs and minivans that have much lower standards.

CAFE is pretty bad policy, but incrasing the number of classes would make it significantly worse.

Etienne

Why does fuel efficiency push buyers to want bigger, less efficient vehicles? Manufacturers, I can see, but why buyers?

One problem in general with the hybrid cars is their price tag. I'd love one of those cars, but every time one of my old junkers drops dead on me, all I can afford is a slightly newer junker. And that's how a lot of us out here in Average America Land continue to get gouged at the pump.

I'm pretty sure people DO want more fuel efficient cars though. In general, this whole problem with energy is putting the infallibility of the "free market" theory to the test. People absolutely NEED and WANT cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy...So far the free market is not responding. But we DO have at least a million brands of air fresheners, steering wheel covers and bobble headed doggies to choose from.

Miller

Dave and nittypig,
We import slightly more oil from Canada than any other country, but the amounts from Mexico and Venezuela are nearly as high, and there are substantial imports from Saudi Arabia, other Middle Eastern countries and Africa. Any reduction in oil imports from Canada would need to be made up from those other sources, none of which has much excess capacity. The price would not drop; it would more likely increase. China is interested in the Canadian oil sands, so that oil will be extracted and sold whether or not we are the buyers.

TexasToast

Question - Is their an engineering or other nonpolitical reason for the differing CAFE standards on light trucks vs autos?

Paul Zrimsek

People absolutely NEED and WANT an immortaility drug as well. The market's lettig us down there too. Bad market!

Ilgracean

Whenever you are moving a larger mass you need more energy. Hence you use more fuel, regardless of the fuel source.

"I'm pretty sure people DO want more fuel efficient cars though."
When you're asking people about this, ask them if they do basic things like not turn on the air conditioner while driving. Also check to see if they know that having the AC on drastically reduces fuel efficiency.

"People absolutely NEED and WANT cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy"
Do you have any proposals here? The real problem with most of the alternative energy proposals out there is that they're too expensive. Thus you never see environmental groups going into business with one of their proposals. Even nuclear power, not necessarily cheaper than fossil fuels, has recieved a wholesale rejection in this country.

TM

People absolutely NEED and WANT an immortaility drug as well

The market has done a great job of addressing related concerns in the enhancement arena, at least if my e-mail is any guide.

Any, as usual in all these free-market arguments, externalities are the key - one might argue (I think I will) that:

(a) a significant fraction of our defense budget goes to assuring access to Persian Gulf oil, to the benefit of ourselves, the Japanese, and others.

To the extent that oil consumers don't see this in the price of oil, we have (1) foreign free riders, such as Japan; and (2) imported oil priced below its true cost in the US.

Now, since oil is fungible, I don't know just how or why we would tax imported oil, or, especially, oil from the Persian Gulf. But it seems to be an issue.

And (b) - the safety of my car depends in part on what I am sharing the road with - trucks and big SUVs have created a bit of an arms race, where the safety conscious don't want to unilaterally disarm. But I would get smaller if you would! (Which takes me back to my opening paragraph...)

Etienne

Paul, do you consider that a valid comparison? Try marketing that product, with provable research results, and you'll be richer than Gates in a week.

I just find it curious that the "free" market has had about 30 years now to bring alternate energy to market and so far has only managed to enrich the vast oil conglomerates and increase the foreign dependency that has us wasting American lives in Iraq every day. We are encouraged to believe that the same human beings who put men on the moon and invented the microchip are now incapable of creating original technologies to produce and utilize the kind of energy the human race will need in order to survive on this earth. Does this sudden and total incompetence of mankind provide the apologia for the free market's failure to respond to the most obvious and critical need and want of the world? Or is the "freeness" of the market really just the sheeps clothing that allows the wolves to exploit their fellow man with impunity?

TexasToast

One answer.

">http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=4917&sequence=2"> Another answer.

Actually, Paul, the market will work – eventually. When demand exceeds supply, aren’t high prices just a method of rationing? High prices will drive many of these overweight gas guzzlers off the road – if we don’t chose another form of rationing through politics.

“Safety is for me and my family – ergo, give me the heaviest vehicle on the road. On the other hand, conservation is for the other guy. If I can afford the cash to fill the tank – all those other folks can take the bus or ride around in batteries with four wheels.”

How does the “market” deal with this guy?

CAFE is a good example of a goal of society overriding individual “freedom”. It good for our county to be less dependant on foreign oil – just like its good for our county to have an army – even thought it doesn’t do me much good personally.

CAFÉ is actually pretty good policy - the light truck loophole is bad policy. It actually encouraged more consumption by creating a market based reason for consumers to move from cars to trucks/SUVs en masse. They weren’t buying trucks to haul loads – they were buying trucks to commute - making our fleet less efficient than it was in the 70’s. If CAFÉ had included light trucks – or if all vehicles were taxed based on gas consumption, things might be a bit different. This weight class idea makes bad policy worse – IMHO.

Cecil Turner

"And (b) - the safety of my car depends in part on what I am sharing the road with - trucks and big SUVs have created a bit of an arms race . . ."

In the original CAFE concept, manufacturers would have to produce more of the smaller cars in order to meet average fuel efficiencies. If we applied that philosophy, the reduced numbers of behemoths would largely offset the dangers of disparate vehicle sizes. Expanding the number of categories doesn't address the safety issue, and is a half-measure on energy efficiency. (Resistance to overarching CAFE standards is, IMO, a predominantly political question, and one of the few areas where I think the WSJ Editorial Board is totally out to lunch.)

"I just find it curious that the "free" market has had about 30 years now to bring alternate energy to market and so far has only managed to enrich the vast oil conglomerates . . ."

The problem with most "alternative" energy sources is that they're not dense enough to be workable. With today's technology, we have essentially one option: fission. And even when we manage to engineer cost effective hybrid/electric/hydrogen vehicles, the only logical way to provide the basic energy required for the system will be nuclear. (Which would also go a long way toward answering the global warming issue . . . and again, resistance is political.)

nittypig

Etienne: "I just find it curious that the "free" market has had about 30 years now to bring alternate energy to market and so far has only managed to enrich the vast oil conglomerates and increase the foreign dependency that has us wasting American lives in Iraq every day. "

The free market hasn't had anything like 30 years. In case you forgot gas was ridiculously cheap for most of that period. And of course oil companies weren't making lots of money while the prices were so low.

The reason we don't have economic alternatives to oil is that were living in a world that is swimming in cheap oil. The biggest and most important market externality is OPEC.

Etienne

Well, nittypig, I sort of remember Ronald Reagan tearing down the solar panels from the White House roof about 25 years ago. [Uh, talk about your political resistance -certainly wouldn't want to set any examples.]And I can remember sitting in class as a little kid during the 70s gas lines being taught that fossil fuel would inevitably be exhausted and that scientists had to invent new sources of power. Made sense to me as a child that if all your survival needs are based on something that is finite, you will need to change over to another source if you are to survive. Still makes sense.

As Cecil says, nuclear power is the only viable alternative at the moment, and I find both support and opposition to that does not follow party lines. More than anything else, it follows NIMBY lines. I live near Indian Point in NY, and when the first thing your kindergartner has to memorize is the emergency evacuation route, it's pretty clear that this is NOT the ideal power source. We can do better, and must.

Paul Zrimsek

The only point I was trying to raise last time was that the purpose of the market is to help us make intelligent choices given the constraints we face-- not to make those constraints simply go away somehow. Some of the other points that have been raised are worth considering, though I'm skeptical of some; for instance, about how much we'd really be able to save in defense spending if we only needed that capability to do things like bomb oil-free Kosovo, invade oil-free Afghanistan, and deter oil-free North Korea.

TM

for instance, about how much we'd really be able to save in defense spending if we only needed that capability to do things like bomb oil-free Kosovo, invade oil-free Afghanistan, and deter oil-free North Korea.

Fair enough, but even if you figure $40 B per year, that is (a) 10% of the Defense Budget; and (b) probably a big number to suggest as a new tax.

creech

The heck with CAFE standards, the individual's right to buy what he subjectively decides is of value to him, and the reality that it is damn expensive and technologically challenging to derive new and cheaper engergy sources. Let's just return to WWII-style rationing with coupons
(or tickers) allowing so much gasoline per week. of course, some people will still "waste" their allotment, so we need to prohibit or limit certain trips: one entertainment type trip per week, one auto vacation per year, no cars admitted to National Parks unless four individuals are in it, have to have a legitimate purpose for registering in a motel, no air conditioning may be turned on until temps reach 90 deg.

Syl

Even if the idea behind CAFE standards was to sell more small things than big things, that doesn't have any effect on the huge semi's trucking their way over all our highways. I shudder remembering driving my little Datsun 200SX up and down 95.

Anyway, AFAIC, making it cheaper for individuals to drive their cars doesn't solve the problem.

Well, depends on WHAT problem we're trying to solve. Cheaper cost of driving or moving away from oil.

'Less dependence on foreign oil' is meaningless. As long as we're dependent on oil it doesn't matter what OUR source is. So making it cheaper for us to drive doesn't solve anything.

Syl

Creech

For motels, two in a car should be sufficient. :)

Forbes

CAFE standards result in more fuel effecient autos and trucks, which are therefore cheaper to operate; in the end, such standards operate as an incentive to use the vehicle more often, for more miles. CAFE standards do NOTHING to conserve energy or reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Those who don't trust markets to work, generally, are the same who believe a bunch of philospher kings will determine the ideal outcome. Last I checked, Marx and Engels were still discredited, and not on paper, but by real world human trials.

And of course, the outcome is ideal when someone else pays the cost--as a result of NIMBY (locate in someone else's community), enriched oil conglomerates (by definition, they should be less profitable), or hybrid cars are too expensive (based on personal consumption preference--so should be subsidized).

There is an argument to be made regarding free riders and defense spending, i.e. it is for the producers' benefit that their oil is brought to market--there are no alternatives to monetize the asset--they can't drink the oil.

Yet, fielding a naval surface fleet is far more than about trade in middle eastern oil. It's about commerce in all tradeable goods globally, as well as other diplo-political and humanitarian missions. And whatever the peace dividend engineered under Clinton, it was on the back of the Army (6 Divisions?) and some Air Force air wings (?), and resulted in higher non-defense spending, rather than a reduction in overall fiscal budgets. (An observation regarding preferences--consumer/political--rather than a criticism.)

TM

CAFÉ is actually pretty good policy - the light truck loophole is bad policy.

This is the eternal debate between regulators and free-marketers, who observe that that, like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, regulators are forever re-discovering the law of unintended consequences.

More broadly - think of how our nation's transportation ploicy, housing policy, urban planning, etc. is committed to the automobile. A few years of expensive gasoline won't reverse all of that.

And I see Forbes is also running away from the defense spending / oil linkage. Hmm.

Well - even during Clinton's peace dividend, the Persian Gulf was infamously *not* peaceful.

Secondly, I agree that our Navy has a general mission to keep sea lanes open, and the Persian Gulf is only a part of it.

Might some naval planners be able to calculate the appropriate size fleet if the Peresian Gulf were no longer a hot spot, and would that be a fair measure of the marginal cost of preserving access to that oil? Maybe. Pretty vague, obviously.

Forbes

No heat until it's freezing outside!

And of course, air, train, and ship travel would be similarly restricted to employment related only, with one vacation trip per year allowed.

Limitations as to day-of-the-week automobile usage would encourage car-pooling, and ultimately car-sharing, which would result in reducing the size of the automobile/industrial complex, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign sources of transportation fuels.

Since energy is consummed in the extraction and fabrication of building materials, new construction would be limited by the number of housing units condemned each year, and of course, strict limits would be imposed on the size of each housing unit, and on a per occupant basis. This restriction would have the secondary benefit of reducing over-consumption of those resources that have any energy inputs.

I imagine others can arrive at equally valid energy conservation proposals.
;-)

cathyf
if all vehicles were taxed based on gas consumption

Um... Isn't that exactly how it works? They collect the taxes at the pump, and the tax paid is perfectly calibrated to the amount of gasoline actually consumed.

If you think that gas prices are too low (because the gas taxes are too low) that is certainly a reasonable argument to make. As long as you don't try to simultaneously argue that higher gas prices are bad...

cathy :-)

Patrick R. Sullivan

'if you figure $40 B per year, that is (a) 10% of the Defense Budget; and (b) probably a big number to suggest as a new tax.'

I make it about .3% of GDP.

We could divide whatever dollar figure we come up with by the number of barrels of imported oil in a year, and pass it on to motorists as a pump tax. We could even maybe bargain the Japanese to pay us a similar amount based on their imports.

And I note that I've again been vindicated in my frequent references to 'the overly-subtle Mr. Zrimzek'

kim

Let's see, the new CAFE standards will save 25 days worth of gas in nearly 7,300 days? That's a percentage saving of what, 3% of 3%, which is on the order of an improvement of 1/10,000. Stop the presses. Stop the production machinery. Redesign and re-engineer for this massive improvement.
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Forbes

TM:
OK, seriously now. I've never been a big defender of the defense spending/oil link, in part, because I don't understand/buy the link/argument.

Military resources always require a significant amount of slack, so as to have the ability to respond to both anticipated and unanticipated hot spots--however defined.

And this is a whole other policy debate that can go on 'til the cows come home.

But I think the answer to your question--appropriate size of fleet, as a marginal cost of access to oil--is a fool's errand. Power projection carries a cost that is highly variable based on the capability of that power, against the trade-offs of the risk (loss of life) of the projection.

The USS Pueblo ('68) and the SS Mayaguez ('75) incidents illustrate the risks of projection without sufficient capabilities.

I imagine keeping sea lanes open, only, is relatively low cost--but at what measurable benefit to the US economy, as compared to the global economy--and at what cost/risk to do so.

The USS Stark ('87) and USS Vincennes ('88) illustrate the risk of vast capabilities--where complex technology lulled complacency (Stark) or enabled over-reaction (Vincennes), costing unneeded loss of lives--military and civilian.

The historic uses of projecting naval power, whether Dutch, British, French, or Spanish, have ultimately been about protecting commercial interests. There have always been free-riders along the way, on the principle that expanding trade results in expanding incomes for all the participants. Yet, just as the patrolman walking a beat needs back-up, so does the navy require slack, not because they know what will happen, only that something always does.

Coming full circle, once you've provided global projection with your surface fleet, with sufficient slack for emergencies and other contingencies, then diplo-political, humanitarian, and national interest tasks get added to the mission. Call it mission creep, but global projection produces capacity, which is primarily limited by the trained capabilities of the force.

Capacity and capability create an inter-dependent tension that is flexible in the short-term, but ultimately self-limiting in the long-term.

The Persian Gulf has been a hot spot for 26 years. What would it look like (and how much less would our defense budget be) without US presence? How much money would Persian Gulf and Arabian Penninsula oil countries spend on surface ships et. al. for defense of their oil and shipping interests? How many tankers would've been sunk by tin pot oil sheiks pissing on each other? Should I care?

Can we put Mossadegh back in power in Iran, and say, "do-over"?

I'm rambling...like I said, a fool's errand to try to deconstruct an element of power projection in order to identify the costs associated with the risk/benefit trade-off. Though I'm willing to listen to other arguments--but then we're a long way from CAFE, aren't we?

dude1394

I'm pretty dissappointed in the bush administration bowing to feel-good legislation here. If oil is too high, people will buy smaller cars. Certainly the high price of oil will also make it cost-effective to creat new sources of energy. All good things. It's called supply and demand dubya.

Government market manipulation for things that aren't for the common good (safety, pollution) are quite ridiculous.

The other ridiculous part of this discussion is the statement that somehow if we had higher cafe standards then we wouldn't have to patrol the middle east for protection of "cheap" oil. Hello...our economy runs on inexpensive energy of all kinds. To think that not securing it will keep it inexpensive is ridiculous.

The whole demonization of suvs is an offshoot of political correctness. I'm sure that mr. sullivan and other high-income bracket folks use just as much extra jet fuel as soccer moms gasoline taking their brood to a game. Seeing as how most soccer moms don't fly nearly as much as mr. sullivan.

kim

Etienne. Study up your thermodynamics a little and, if you are courious, I'll give you the answers to the quiz on why the market has been so poor at delivering alternatives to gasoline and diesel for our transportation needs and predominantly coal or natural gas for our other energy needs. In other words, fossil fuel is the only drug we can afford.
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Otis Wildflower

To he-- with demonizing SUVs. Minivans and full-frame cars (like the Crown Vic and other oldster barges) get similar mileage, and in theory deserve equal scorn. I think the problem with SUVs relate more to the typical cellphone-wielding incompetent woman driver who's at the helm of those SUVs that are constantly trying to wander into my lane when I'm riding. Get those dimwits off the road, regardless of what they're driving.

Anyway, there are a number of really neat things that would happen if gas prices stay high.

* poor people get screwed. This is good because they tend to be underinsured and driving undermaintained vehicles, as well as older, more polluting vehicles. High gas prices discriminate against them quite heavily, but politically it's acceptable.
* fewer cars = less traffic. All for it. If I could get a 30min commute up the Gowanus to midtown, I'd happily pay $5/gal for that.
* less $$$ to TEH TERRERESTS.
* if the higher prices come from taxes, use that money for funding lower income taxes, or for mandatory minimum auto insurance, or defending the Gulf oil flow, or jumpstarting hydrogen, etc.
* and don't fret about inflation in the transportation sector, since most real 'work' vehicles are diesel powered anyway. I mean vehicles like tractor-trailers, cube trucks, and larger commercial pickups, not the so-called work trucks that are used as writeoffs for rich contractors. OK, maybe have dyed fuel for cabs and municipal fleets, as is the case now for municipal diesel (for buses and such).

kim

Well, we can and soon will afford nuclear power via pebble bed technology. It is a decentralizable technology capable of a wide range of applications via output variablility being no problem. You can make big power stations, and small power stations. There are no movable rods and the highly chemically reactive substance, water, is not used for energy transfer. Safe, cheap to build, and pitch the wastes into deep ocean trenches where nothing can happen to them but be silted over for 100 million years.
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Aaron

I wonder how many SUV owners have a second car, most likely a fuel efficient sedan, that they will use more often now that gas is expensive. Isn't it true that Americans have multiple cars? And the high gas price will make people naturally take fewer trips...

TM

To he-- with demonizing SUVs. Minivans and full-frame cars (like the Crown Vic and other oldster barges) get similar mileage, and in theory deserve equal scorn.

Really? I have checked at my helpful FindACar website, and I see that the EPA est. MPG for a Ford Explorer is 16. The 2WD Dodge Caravan with the manly 3.8 L 6 cylinders is 20 MPG. (The girly-car 4 cylindr 2.4 L Caravan is estimated at 22 MPG - why not just save expenses by throwing yourself in front of it?)

That is 25% better mileage for the Caravan, with seating for seven.

Oddly, however, the estimated gas mileage for the Explorer is only 20% worse than the Caravan. Troubling...

Anyway - my bet is that if we just switched from SUVs to mini-vans, fuel economy would soar.

JorgXMckie

If you just used the tax money to buy every non-classic car older than 10 years at market + some extra (okay, you'd have to set it to an ownership date, etc, etc) and let them use the to buy a slightly newer beater you'd probably increase the overall MPG for the country by the same amount as the new standards.

I used to (more than 10 years ago) pride myself on being able to buy cars for less than $200 and keep them running for at least a year. I liked to keep my total average cost per mile driven to less than 12 cents. Piece of cake.

Steve White

This is a strange argument about free markets, etc. Strange for this reason --

Automakers already make fuel-efficient cars. Chevy, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota et al each offer at least one car that can deliver 30 mpg in average use. Toyota offers several. Why, if only people would buy those cars --

-- boink. There's the free market problem. These cars are out there, the automakers can produce millions of them if only we'd want them, and Americans are buying SUVs and mini-vans instead. Heck, Americans look at the Hummer H2 and think "that could be me."

Make gasoline $6 a gallon, and you might persuade people to buy a Chevy Cobalt instead of a Ford Explorer. Maybe. Weekly driving costs are but one factor in peoples' heads when they're at the showroom. Size, space, handling, safety, 'cool factor', etc. all become important. That's as it should be in a free market.

The market is speaking. Are we listening? People want large vehicles, and so far they've been willing to pay to buy and drive them. Pass whatever CAFE rules you like, make gasoline cost whatever you want. People want larger vehicles, and they've been willing to pay for them. It's that simple.

j.pickens

"If you just used the tax money to buy every non-classic car older than 10 years at market + some extra (okay, you'd have to set it to an ownership date, etc, etc) and let them use the to buy a slightly newer beater you'd probably increase the overall MPG for the country by the same amount as the new standards."

Hah, Hah, Hah,Haahaahahahahahah.....

You SUV haters are unbelievable...
You DO realize that building replacement automobiles consumes FAR more energy than could ever be saved by this assinine proposal.

And as to hybrid cars, these are pseudoenvironmental feel-good machines.
You DO realize that saving 10mpg vs. a comparably sized conventional car with a hybrid will NEVER save as much energy as was required to construct the extra electrical motors, switches, and, especially, Nickel Metal Hydride batteries necessary for the hybrid to work.

Why do you think they cost more?
More energy required to build them.

Thermodynamics is a bitch.

Drill in the US, build Nuclear plants, and make plans for extracting tar sands when oil reaches $80 per barrel. Tar sands are the natural limiting factor in the price of oil. The Saudis know that it is economical to extract BILLIONS of barrels of oil from tar sands for around $80 to $100 per barrel. They will keep the price below that level to keep making money and keep their market share. Therfore, gasoline will stay below $4 per gallon for at least 20 years, in constant dollars. That is, unless these Socialists get a chance to "Solve" this "problem" with taxes and stupid redistribution techniques.

You heard it here first.

Zorba the Albanian

It's mind blowing.

I doubt anyone here writing would, wandering past a powered-up F-15, just hop into the cockpit and push the throttle all the way up, figurin' a little bit o' clear thinkin' will tell you how to fly the thing by the time you run out of runway.

And yet, here y'all are, sure as all heck that after a little bit of thinking you just know the correct way to "fly" a five-hundred-billion-dollar sector of the economy, with far more "moving parts" (e.g. people and organizations) and horribly complex nonlinear feedback loops than the most fiercesomely complex machine ever designed by man.

Weird, that is. Where does this intellectual arrogance come from?

And you'd even think the stark staring human and ecological disaster that was the USSR would have forever engraved in the front of everyone's mind by now this sad eternal truth: Centrally-planned top-down economic solutions never ever work. The real world is always far more complex and surprising than all your lovely theories would suggest.

Luckily, it is easier for engineers to come up with miracle technology than it is for ordinary citizens to see their economic reality clearly. So the Republic will endure, not because, but in spite of the "common sense" of its citizens. Feh.

Etienne

Those who don't trust markets to work, generally, are the same who believe a bunch of philospher kings will determine the ideal outcome. Last I checked, Marx and Engels were still discredited, and not on paper, but by real world human trials.

I really can't express how much I despise this bullshit argument. It's this kind of nonsense that has uninformed yahoos all over the internet calling anyone who disagrees with pure conservativism "Marxists" and "commies". It's asinine.

We are HUMAN BEINGS for Chrissake. With intelligence and the power to mold our societies according to our collective will. We don't have to choose between brutal unregulated markets ( that tend to centralize wealth and power without necessarily serving the human needs of the community that supports them) and antiquated, disproven utopian theories. We can be pragmatists and regulate markets as needed, deregulate as needed.

The problem with conservatives slandering the opposition as Marxists - aside from the desired collateral damage of misinforming their acolytes - is that they are themselves enshrining free market capitalism as a kind of religious creed. It isn't perfect. It doesn't respond automatically or correctly to all of society's requirements and as human beings we should not be beholden to any such rigid ideology.

kim, I am interested in your description of pebble bed technology. You will find a lot less opposition to nuclear power amongst progressives than you imagine. As reality based people guided by scientific facts, there is a large contingent willing to examine the potential of nuclear power. "Pitching it in the ocean" sounds a little dicey, but I'm sure that was just fast typing.

But speaking of your talk of Republican "populism" the other day, I noticed this gem from Otis Wildflower:
Anyway, there are a number of really neat things that would happen if gas prices stay high.* poor people get screwed. This is good because they tend to be underinsured and driving undermaintained vehicles, as well as older, more polluting vehicles. High gas prices discriminate against them quite heavily, but politically it's acceptable.

When is the Republican party going to be honest and come out with this kind of condescending inhumanity in public. I think the populists out there have a right to discuss this openly and honestly.

MiniVan Man

I work for a company where, due to the nature of the job, a large proportion of the employees are required to drive company-leased vehicles. We have a reasonable selection of vehicles to choose from, including mid-size SUVs (think Ford Exploder...er Explorer) and large minivans (Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna at different times). The minivans can seat more people, have a more versatile and larger cargo space, are more efficient, and drive as well or better than the SUVs. However, unless the employee has a large family, the choice is always the SUV. Discussion with co-workers on this topic have left the impression that many people, regardless of gender, think SUVs are virile and minivans are emasculating.

James

To quote that most famous of movies King Ralph: "When poeple look at cars they are thinking one thing. Will this get me...".

Fuel efficiency is not something most people will pay extra for. Most suggestion involve forcing people to pay more for it anyway. With that in mind, why not add a fuel efficiency fee (tax) on the sale of any new vehicle? Anything with efficiency about a set amount does not pay the fee. Anything below pays an amount based on the difference. The scale could even be logarithmic.

Cecil Turner

"I doubt anyone here writing would, wandering past a powered-up F-15, just hop into the cockpit and push the throttle all the way up . . ."

Au contraire, I'd love to. On the general point, it's hard to see how winning an election suddenly qualifies one for running such an economy. And the argument against centrally planned solutions would be more persuasive if we didn't already have a significant regulation structure (and hadn't just passed significant new legislation in that regard). Moreover, having tried (unsuccessfully) to follow the intricacies of several economic conversations 'round here, I'd suggest you might be underestimating the local talent.

ISTM there's a legitimate argument for scrapping all CAFE legislation and letting market forces take over. Personally, I think closing the SUV "loophole" would be preferable. But the current proposal, as with most half-measures, looks like poor policy.

kim

Etienne: The ocean pitching was not fast typing. The deep trenches are extremely stable geological formations, nothing can happen at the bottom of them except millions of years of sedimentation, unless the tectonic plates shift direction(yeah, tomorrow) and then they'll simply close up, sealing in wastes for millenia of millenia.

I understand that some progressives recognize that nuclear energy has great promise. It can be made safe; handling of the wastes is still problematic(trenches are too deep for most people).

More wind and water power simply haven't the potential for economic use until fossil fuels become outrageous(now or whenever, you pick). Solar energy, the fount of all but nuclear and fusion, is at the marginal economic edge, increased use requires too much capital.

We are going to modify our growing need for energy, or go nuclear.

By the way, the Chinese will be producing, and selling all over the world in two decades, pre-fab pebble beds power plants, probably with a promise to dispose of or re-manufacture the pebbles. C'mon American engineering and market expertise, Get busy.
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kim

James, when you say 'logarithmic' do you mean 'progressive'?
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DJ

Looks like Jonah is in good company.

cathyf
With that in mind, why not add a fuel efficiency fee (tax) on the sale of any new vehicle?

So, what's the most efficient vehicle useage?: 1 dodge minivan taking 5 neighborhood kids to school together, or 2 toyota corollas driving those kids? Six teenaged basketball players piling into one suburban, or the same 6 piling into 3 honda civic hybrids because none of these guys can fit in the back seat of a roller skate? The family which lives within walking distance to work and school (yes, there are some of us out there) and mostly drives when they need to haul cargo -- isn't it more energy efficient for them to have only one vehicle big enough to haul, and since they only drive 4,000 miles per year the mileage isn't that big a deal?

Having taxes at the point of purchase of the vehicle is just asinine. We should put the taxes right on the gallon of gasoline. Use more gas, pay more $$ to finance military spending to protect supplies. Use less gas, pay less taxes.

cathy :-)

kim

When you buy the vehicle, cathyf, they will use the DataBank to predict your use of the vehicle, and they'll charge you accordingly. Hey, the technology is there, we just need to update the laws.
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kim

Next thought: Let the taxing authority(Fed, State, Municipal, Benefit District) collect at the pump according to past use, defined not just by consumption, but by any number of variables.

Woohoo, Brave New Byways.
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nittypig

"The market is speaking. Are we listening? People want large vehicles, and so far they've been willing to pay to buy and drive them. Pass whatever CAFE rules you like, make gasoline cost whatever you want. People want larger vehicles, and they've been willing to pay for them. It's that simple."

It's worse than that because CAFE makes any 'muscle car' very expensive. If you want power at a decent price you're going to be buying an SUV - that's what current CAFE rules do. The proposed changes will aggravate this problem by pushing buyers who want power into larger SUVs.

I'm with cathy - if you want better fuel efficiency, tax the gas.

M. Simon

In an effort to promote safety I think we need to ban 18 wheelers; those suckers are huge and they weigh a lot. Besides they get horrible fuel economy.

We could get fuel economy way up if we banned those suckers. Compare 5 or 6 mpg to 20 mpg.

Forbes

Etienne:

If you don’t like the argument, why don’t you try to rebut it, rather than calling it bullshit, dismissing it as nonsense, and suggesting that those informed by it are yahoos. (That’s a nice touch—vulgarity and ad hominem in one paragraph. I’m bowed over by the intensity of your response.)

You might start by explaining to us how it is that Marx and Engels haven’t been discredited.

You might further expound upon the centralized power and wealth in countries such as the former Soviet Union, Peoples Republic of China, Cuba, and North Korea, explaining how they better serve human needs, and both as contrasted to the market economies of the West.

Finally, please enlighten us all as to how you are uniquely endowed with the correct knowledge as to society’s requirements.

(Personally, I'm informed by liberals such as Adam Smith, but dont't let that get in the way of any of your reasoning.)

Until then, I meekly remain your servant.

M. Simon

kim,

You are wrong about wind. It is already less costly than natural gas electricity and will be less than coal when turbine size reaches 10 - 12 MW (peak).

It is called the learning curve and is the same for wind as it was for coal fired plants from 1900 to 1950 or so. Bigger plants, and more experience using them = lower costs.

BTW America is the Saudi Arabia of wind.

M. Simon

Forbes,

Mosdeggah back in Iran?

He was a communist. Any you know what they do to economies and the environment.

Forbes

M. Simon:

T'was toungue-in-check comment for TM.

Sorry to lead you astray.

Cheers.

kim

You cannot wring significant amounts of energy from the wind without changing the weather downwind. And who's downwind? Everyone, a large class.

I wish I were wrong about wind. It's renewed by the sun, and only kills birds, hearing, and pristine views.
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Etienne

Forbes, I referred to Marxism/communism as "antiquated, disproven utopian theories".
Did you miss that?

I have confessed multiple times on this board to not understanding economics discussions. I have only rudimentary high school background on Marxist theory and consider myself, as does every single liberal Democrat I have ever met, a capitalist. That does not mean I have to believe in the glorious perfection of free markets. At least, I don't think I have to. I hope we are still allowing free thought in this country, including the freedom to modify and tailor economic theories (including capitalist free markets) to best suit society's human needs.

Forbes

Yes, Etienne, I did miss that because you didn't say what you now imply. You asserted that a bipolar choice exists, as between "brutal unregulated markets" and "antiquated, disproven utopian theories," and that it is a false choice.

Frankly, it is a tiresome approach. I made an argument--or an assertion--which you quoted, and then dismissed and disparged, not with a counter-argument, but with a vulgarity and an ad hominem.

Rudimentary understanding is not an excuse for offering **bullshit** as a rebutal to an argument.

Based on your own admission, you have little understanding upon which to base your economic beliefs--sounds like a religious-type faith.

Pot meet kettle.

Do some homework. Make an argument. Stop accusing others of the very thing you do.

Etienne

I have no religious faith in any economic theory, Forbes. What the HELL are you talking about anyway? All I'm saying is that the ferocity of "free" market defenders resembles that of blind ideologues. I don't trust free market proponents because it seems all too clear, even to my admittedly uneducated eyes, that most of them are self advocating. They don't advocate for the betterment of society. Instead, they toss that on as a fringe benefit of the unlimited acquisition of wealth and power to a (somehow) entitled elite.

I have neither time nor inclination to refine my knowledge of the subject, but I am an otherwise intelligent human being, who trusts my OWN eyes, not the snotty pomposity of elitist pundits and "experts". I believe as a general principle that mankind has no more obligation to be hobbled to an orthodoxy of free markets than it does to be hobbled to an orthodoxy of communism. I believe capitalism is fundamentally a natural system. However, with the advent of corporate centralization of wealth, a lack of regulation -as an absolute principle - amounts to a license to rape and steal by the powerful against the weak.

I know enough to know this has been an ongoing discussion throughout US history, one that parallels other political divisions. I know some modern conservatives despise the New Deal of FDR as a form of socialism. I think, before any further dismantling of that system takes place, the American people - including the vast majority who are even less well informed on economics than I am - deserve at the least to know what their government proposes. If it can't be broken down into simple,clear language, how can we consider ourselves a democracy?

Flame away, my friend. Sticks and stones, as they say.

The Kid

Etienne –

Capitalism requires free markets, communism requires some sort of central controlling mechanism to tell enterprises what to produce. The concept of centralized control of economies has been disproved in fact and in theory mainly because it is too complex to provide needed information to all producers in the absence of the price / cost of everything. Those who favor a third way -- just enough controls, just enough regulation -- are oblivious to the unintended, not necessarily unforeseen, consequences that will result.

That said, the US economy is constrained by a boatload of regulations and controls. You will soon see a grand example, a populist experiment that will make folks in Hawaii miserable. That state has decided to implement a cap on gasoline prices effective September 1, 2005.

The law as written seems bizarre, and most admit that it will have the effect of raising gas prices. It appears that some folks are responding as one might expect and are hoarding gas already, causing spot shortages. Hawaiians cannot drive across a state line for relief, with the result that this attempt to punish the evil oil companies, Chevron in this case, will cause shortages that will hurt those on the lower end of the income scale most.

Hawaii already has the highest gas taxes in the nation (although from this chart I can only come up with $0.34 per gallon plus sales tax, while the linked article and this">http://www.theksbwchannel.com/automotive/4891742/detail.html">this one put it in the $0.60 per gallon range.) My point is that what evil conservatives know is that capping prices leads to shortages – we saw this periodically during the Nixon and Carter years, with gas lines in 1972 and 1979. I was in Europe during both episodes, and gas lines did not appear because no attempt to cap or control prices let them rise. The rising price sent a signal that pushed production and sent the gas where the prices were highest, or, in economic lingo, where the demand was greatest.

The Soviets experienced shortages of all sorts because they had price controls, fixed prices on consumer goods and commodities that provided produces no information on who needed what.

Do yourself a favor and get Thomas Sowell’s book Basic Economics: A Citizens Guide to the Economy, Revised and Expanded. Read the reviews and make up your mind. I guarantee that if you read it you will be able to whack Forbes over the head once in a while, although I suspect that he’s read it too. I even made my stinking kids read it, and they enjoyed it.

Paul Zrimsek

We are HUMAN BEINGS for Chrissake. With intelligence and the power to mold our societies according to our collective will.

Fine, Etienne. We have molded our society according to our collective will. So why aren't you happier about it?

kim

Democracy just flat appalls her.
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The Kid

We are HUMAN BEINGS for Chrissake. With intelligence and the power to mold our societies according to our collective will.

"Is that a utopia?"

"No, Tony, 'at's a not my topia, is that a utopia?"

Forbes

Etienne:
Thanks for the fencing lesson. I've learned that some thrusts are not worth parrying. And others cannot be parrodied.

The Kid: Yes, I have, so thanks for the compliment.

Paul Z: Etienne knows better, that's why. Just ask...ahh...on the other hand, don't.

;-)

M. Simon

kim,

Tall buildings are more dangerous to birds than wind turbines.

If you really care about birds you will need to exterminate cats. They are way more dangerous to birds than wind turbines or tall buildings.

Ruin the view? Of South Dakota farmland? Who will care? Not farmers when farming wind is more profitable than fawming wheat.

Every energy system affects climate in one way or another. So far no one has noticed a difference from wind turbines.

sophy

I do not know how to use the twelvesky Gold ; my friend tells me how to use.

LOTRO Gold

When you have LOTRO Gold, you can get more!

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