Friday, October 24, 2003

The end of the Oil Age?

The British magazine The Economist states that there are “ways to break the tyranny of oil” and “governments need to promote them.” But if you read the text of the article, it’s pretty clear that they mean “government” – singular – as in the United States. It’s all up to us to switch over to hydrogen cells and bioethanol.

Make no mistake: I’m in full-throated support of anything that will choke off the Saudis (figuratively, I suppose). But some of the alternatives to oil that the Economist lists are not viable, at least right now. For example, ethanol would never survive without the heavy subsidies that the federal government showers on the corn-growing states. Fuel cells need hydrogen and they can only come from other power sources (e.g. nuclear). I think fuel standards can help (disclaimer: I drive a Subaru Impreza) but I’m extremely leery about telling other people what to drive. The Economist strongly pushes a gas tax, but without the perspective of what this might do to the American economy (further disclaimer: I commute >100 miles a day). As I often say: if the answer was simple, the problem would have been solved a long time ago.

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