21 January 2007

"Let them ride bikes!"

Thomas Friedman had a fun column in my local paper this past New Year's Eve. It was entitled "Thinking green gains ground at last." Talking about Time magazine's person of the year, he opines, "No, I'd have run an all-green Time cover under the headline, 'Color of the Year.'" Because 2006 was the year that, "living and thinking 'green' ... hit Main Street."

A remarkable overstatement. I'll grant him this much, 2006 may well be the year that wishing "green" by the elites has hit yet new highs. Spurred on by Al Gore's movie and a growing, idiotic complacency about terrorism, they've returned to their decade old battle cries against their new red menace, the global warming boogeyman.

He goes on to report events of this past year that most of us missed:
We reached a tipping point this year -- where living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green came to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy and competitive thing they could do. Hence my own motto: "Green is the new red, white and blue."
And, hence my own motto "Green is the new utopian delusion." Sadly, it's a double sided delusion. On the one hand, folks like Friedman convince themselves that because Wal-Mart has taken an interest in saving money through the use of energy efficient light bulbs, that finally the rabble has seen the light and is ready to start wearing hemp clothes and living in mud huts to save the world. On the other hand is the big fantasy, that we can or should alter our society in a way that would significantly reduce energy use. I'm all for good gas mileage and energy efficient light bulbs, don't get me wrong. But, those aren't going to save even close to enough energy to meet the expectations of the true-blue greens.

Mr. Friedman goes on and on about Wal-Mart's experimental green store. But, eventually he calms down and reaches the inescapable bottom line:
... scale is everything if you want to change the world, but to achieve scale you have to make sure that the green energy sources ... can be delivered as cheaply as oil, gas and dirty coal.
(Wait for it ...)
That will require a gasoline or carbon tax to keep the price of fossil fuels up so investors in green-tech will not get undercut while they drive innovation forward and prices down.
Oh, I love liberal economics. For the green innovators to drive prices down, the government must first force other prices up with taxes. Up, down, down, up. With these guys, it's no longer just morals that are relative.

Yes, he's probably really saying that green tech' needs a competitve boost to build business and get the business advantages of higher volume -- however poorly he may have put it. There's two big problems I have with any gas tax. First, we're already paying a large, de facto, green-based gas tax due to lost supply from blocked reserves in ANWR the Gulf of Mexico and probably other places. I don't like that.

"Let them ride bikes!"

Just like the "gas guzzler" vehicles that Friedman decries, this blocked supply has also helped to keep prices high and unfriendly Middle Eastern countries well-financed.

The other problem with any gas tax is that it's punitive to ordinary people who still have to drive to work, the grocery store, and everywhere else. Ultimately, it is not the likes of Friedman and his friends that will pay the real price of this tax, it's regular Joes and small businesses. I still haven't entirely recovered from the last bout of 3 dollar a gallon gas. Now King Tom wants to bring it back. And, why? Just so rich elites -- who will never miss a few thousand a year more in gas money -- can feel good about saving the world from a threat that probably doesn't exist.

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