Monday, September 27, 2010

Mandarin Moon Shots

Thomas Friedman makes a very important point in his excellent column published in the New York Times on Saturday.

The gist of the article is that China is looking decades into the future and building the world's biggest network of ultra-modern airports, creating a web of high-speed trains, developing a world-class cell/genetic engineering industry, and lastly, China is investing $15 billion in its fast growing electric vehicle industry.

After laying out this expansive plan that will undoubtedly make China the most powerful nation on Earth, Friedman puts it all into perspective with this:

"Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan."


We spend billions to fight wars over oil and China spends billions to get off of oil.

Friedman further states, "... the country that replaces gasoline-powered vehicles with electric-powered vehicles — in an age of steadily rising oil prices and steadily falling battery prices — will have a huge cost advantage and independence from imported oil."

This is the best argument for why it's right and proper that our federal and state governments provide incentives to get the initial cost down for plug-in cars.

Consider that every day our country spends over a billion dollars for foreign oil. That's over a thousand million dollars leaving our country every single day. The longer we wait to end this dependence, the higher the price of oil and the more money we ship out of the country.

What's worse is that 90% of the money we spend on gas leaves our communities. While losing much of it to other countries is bad enough, think how many billions of our dollars are lost to local merchants and industries that would hire our friends and family if only those dollars were spent for locally grown or manufactured goods instead of sent to the overflowing coffers of the oil barons.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Those oil barons spend millions of "our dollars" hiring effective lobbyists to essentially run Congress, and millions more to affect political contests. Witness the massive fight we have on our hands here in California over Prop 23, a measure that will overturn the will of the citizens of this progressive state who enacted AB32, the country's most progressive climate change legislation. Two Texas oil companies and a couple of right-wing billionaires from Kansas are pouring oil money into this fight.

Those who buy plug-in cars will no longer contribute their own money to be used against them in this manner.

Friedman says. "Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America? President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline."

I don't blame Obama alone for this since there are precious few in Congress who would dare promote raising taxes on dirty energy, yet without those price signals, we'll make slow progress in ridding our country of its addiction to oil.

It comes down to individual citizens and their personal position on dirty energy. Ignorance is no excuse, the information on how coal and oil hurts our country is everywhere, you only need to read it.

Every day wasted making the transition to clean, renewable energy results in more sick and dying citizens poisoned by our collective waste and more dead soldiers sent to protect our access to the dwindling supply of oil.

If you are not in favor of higher prices on dirty energy, you are not an environmentalist, you are not a patriot, and you will share responsibility for the failure of our country to thrive in a future where fossil fuels will no longer be cheap nor plentiful.

Vote accordingly.