He followed the established but failed practice of proposing complex, indirect remedies that aim to hide costs from consumers (and thus, voters). At best, this political sleight-of-hand makes import reductions and emission controls far more costly to achieve than would otherwise be the case. Economic harm is the more likely outcome.
President Obama’s speech to the nation last week about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico followed a predictable script. Whenever a problem confronts this administration, the president’s answer is sure to include one of a trio of his 2008 campaign initiatives: health care reform, action to address climate change or education reform.
Obama claimed in 2008, for instance, that these long-term, slowly acting changes were a fix for a temporary downturn in the economy. Now, in an even greater leap of logic, he contends that the 1,427-page Waxman-Markey bill (which addresses climate change) is the proper response to the oil spill.
Obama’s advocacy of this bill exemplifies the incoherence and dishonesty of our present debate about energy policy. Two distinct problems — those associated with oil imports and those associated with greenhouse gas emissions — are treated as if they were one and the same.
At a minimum, those alleged problems have wildly different causes necessitating equally different responses. If we fear oil imports, we should tax foreign oil or administratively restrict imports. If we fear greenhouse gas emissions, we should tax those emissions or administratively restrict their release.
Those direct responses will by definition increase the price of gasoline in the first case and all forms of fossil fuels to varying degrees in the second. The more “progress” we wish to achieve in the course of our pursuit of “energy independence” or a carbon-free energy economy, the larger the price increases will have to be.
The president eschews direct confrontation with these alleged menaces because the public has little stomach for major, sustained increases in energy prices, particularly when the economy is ailing and gasoline prices are at historically rather high levels.
So he followed the established but failed practice of proposing complex, indirect remedies that aim to hide costs from consumers (and thus, voters). At best, this political sleight-of-hand makes import reductions and emission controls far more costly to achieve than would otherwise be the case. Economic harm is the more likely outcome.
Help Make A Difference By Sharing These Articles On Facebook, Twitter And Elsewhere: