Friday, August 8, 2008

A Word to Krauthammer: Goals Matter

Not to mention, even then, Krauthammer's wrong about so many things, it's hard to keep track.

The Big K's point is, why can't we simultaneously increase energy supply and reduce demand? Why shouldn't we both drill and use wind power, create more efficient cars, and so forth?

It's because goals matter, that's why. If the prime objective is cheaper, more abundant energy, then by all means, that's what we should do: drill for more oil, use the oil we've got more efficiently, and come up with alternatives as fast as we can.

But if the primary objective is to drastically reduce the amount of carbon we're pumping into the atmosphere, then increasing the abundance and reducing the cost of fossil fuels increases their use, which takes us further from our goal. That, Chucko, is why we don't want to both drill and conserve.

The only saving grace here is that the debate over offshore drilling is a tempest in a teapot:
The Department of Energy estimates that there are eighteen billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in offshore areas of the continental United States that are now closed to drilling. This sounds like a lot, until you consider that oil is a globally traded commodity and that, at current rates of consumption, eighteen billion barrels would satisfy less than seven months of global demand. A D.O.E. report issued last year predicted that it would take two decades for drilling in restricted areas to have a noticeable effect on domestic production, and that, even then, “because oil prices are determined on the international market,” the impact on fuel costs would be “insignificant.”
Suppose the oil companies were able to start pumping that oil in 2018, and were able to pump it all out of the ground in 20 years - making pretty good time on both counts. That would add about 10 days' supply of oil in each of those years, or about a 3% increase. Keeping one's tires inflated, which Krauthammer derides as much less effective, would reduce by 3% the gas consumption of each driver who did so, effectively increasing his gas supply by 3% right now.

The weird thing is, you'd think that conservatives would love this idea. They claim to be all about freedom of the individual and the effectiveness of action on that level - if you think it's a problem, Sparky, why don't you do something about it? - and here Obama's proposing a way that individuals can make a dent in this problem all by themselves, in a way that doesn't rely on governmental or collective action to be effective.

Instead, Krauthammer conflates it with Communism: "Who's against properly inflated tires? Let's start a national campaign, Cuban-style, with giant venceremos posters lining the highways. ("Inflate your tires. Victory or death!")"

This is conservatism as complete cynicism, the belief in nothing and the ridicule of everything. Or at least, the ridicule of everything that Democrats do or propose, even in cases when what they're proposing is in keeping with the best of conservative traditions. But this is the dead end where conservatism finds itself.

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