I have to agree with John Palmer, over at EclectEcon, when he says Bush Gets It Wrong on Alternative Energy, but I don't quite agree with his solution, which is to "tax the snot out of oil and gas". A whole lot of very intelligent people seem to think that the government is the solution, whether it's to guide research or to force people away from their bad habits by making them too costly to continue. Well, the gummint doesn't exactly have the best track record on picking winners in the world of science. They're even worse at that than the Nobel folks are at picking peacemakers to laud.
And, as to forcing people away from bad habits -- taxing the snot out of tobacco certainly has killed the industry, hasn't it? I mean, nobody smokes any more, do they? Ever since the cost of a pack o' Marlboro was doubled to a half-dollar, you scarcely even see them on shelves, even in esoterica shops, now, right? The gutters are clean, there are no filters gumming up sewage treatment plants, there is no second-hand-smoke worry anywhere....
Okay, so that was a little bit over the top. But I mean it.
Every time the gummint gets involved, something, somewhere, gets considerably worse.
I hate that President Bush has tossed his own oar into these waters. Granted, as the leader of our country, he should be helping guide us, but not by tossing tax dollars at projects in the hope that one will pan out. If he has to do that, the least he could do is to make it a contest: the corporation or individual with the most effective and efficient alternatives gets a contract with the military, for production of the next line of Humvees, or some such.
And, yes, he needs to toss the eco-wackos out on their... ears... and encourage our states to start building a few nuclear plants, a little more hydroelectric work, some solar panels, and then some. Plus, he needs to tell Fat Teddy where to go, next time Chappaquiddick Boy objects to wind farms offshore Martha's Vineyard.
But the American taxpayer doesn't need to pay directly for research, and absolutely doesn't need to pay higher taxes for fuel, as that only serves to add to inflation in the long run, since farms and OTR transport still depend upon petrodiesel. Transportation costs go up, food & supply costs go up, cost of industrial operation increase, people lose jobs, they can't buy the new technnology so they continue to drive gas-guzzling pieces of Detroit crap, nothing is gained, and much is lost.
If, on the other hand, localities, states, and the Federal gummint want to do something truly constructive, they might consider offering serious incentives for the lower- to middle-income families to exchange their old cars for hybrid vehicles (or other alternatives, like the biodiesel engines. Whatever works). And, the public might get on the bandwagon if they knew there were some alternate-fuel vehicles coming out which had (a) seating and hauling capacity for a soccer mom's and/or a farmer's needs, (b) a sexy body design, and (c) a price tag under $20 grand.
Is that asking too much?