Sunday, April 03, 2005

More Geo-greening: How National Security and Global Economic Competition Make the Case for Oil Independence

I realize that in my previous post, "Greening the Elephants?", I understated the national security dimension of US energy policy as well as economic competitivenss concerns of high oil prices, resulting with the pessimistic conclusion that Texas and Business would outweigh the Christian stewardship ethic, and tip the balance in favor of policies detrimental to the environment. I must acknowledge that my analysis and conclusion might have been oversimplistic, given the more nuanced observations of qman (see comments to "Greening the Elephants?"), but also if fuller consideration was given to the increasing momentum that the national security / oil-independence argument is gaining in the case for a sustainable energy policy.

National Security
A few days ago, The Washington Post ran an article ("An Unlikely Meeting of the Minds," Mar. 31) detailing the increase interest that conservative groups, like the Center for Security Policy, have in decoupling America's dependence on foreign oil. The US imports 60% of the oil it consumes, and most of that foreign oil lies in countries perceived to be sponsors or allies or radical anti-American Islamists. Set America Free, a coalition of prominent individuals and NGOs, recommends the use of various strategies such as manufactuer and consumer tax credits, federal research funding, and technology R&D to promote alternative energy sources in vehicles so as to ease the national security and economic vulnerability concerns of oil dependence. These concerns and strategies form the crux of the geo-greening movement, as referenced in my previous post, that Thomas Friedman calls for. But see Alan Reynold's critque ("Blowing smoke on gas savings?", The Washington Times, Apr. 2) of Set America Free's proposals as grounded on poor science.

Economic Competitiveness
Another noteworthy part of the article discusses the changing attitudes of the United Auto Workers. The UAW has previously perceived the calls for increased vehicle fuel efficiency as a threat to the SUV and truck market, and hence a threat to US jobs. Now, in the era of increased oil prices and declining SUV and truck sales, an increased popularity of foreign-made hybrids and advanced diesel technology poses new threats to jobs. UAW has come round 180 degrees to promote a federal program to encourage US manufacturers to develop their own alternative-fuel technology so as to retain jobs in the US.

There are plenty of other good reasons, particularly environmental ones, that make the case for US oil independence. But national security and economic competitiveness are two reasons that the Right Nation is likely to stand behind, and enough reason to temper my own pessimism , at least in regards to energy and environment issues, that nothing positive will be achieved with a conservative stronghold of US governement.

Another bipartisan effort that highlights the willingness of conservatives to advance the oil independence cause is the letter to President Bush, organized by the Energy Future Coalition and authored by 26 former national-security officials, including a number of defense hawks, urging the government to commit to $1 billion--"a level proportionate to other priorities for our nation's defense"-- over the next five years to reduce oil consumption and developing alternative fuel technologies.

My thanks goes to Dr. Claude Gravatt for bringing the Washington Post article to my attention.


At Mon Apr 04, 08:26:00 PM GMT-5 , Anonymous Lazarus Long said...

about that Alan Reynolds critique - I don't think he actually read their plan. It doesn't call for gas taxes and it doesn't particularly emphasize ethanol. If you look at the signatory list to the plan you'll see that Chemistry Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley is there as well as Admiral James Watkins, who was Sec. of Energy under Bush senior. They are probably more qualified to judge the science than Alan Reynolds, who a quick google shows is an economist working at the CATO Institute, who hasn't ever really written anything about energy short of exhorting the Bush administration to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

It appears that the Set America Free plan has also gotten approval from IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the National Science Foundation (scroll down on the same page and look at the presentation by the NSF guy.)

FWIW, what Reynolds writes about ethanol is wrong - check out this report from Argonne National Lab.


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