July 06, 2005
Give The People What They Want
Every election sees Democrats offering vague promises to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Maybe they shouldn't be so vague. As this Yale-led survey (PDF) shows (found via Heather Hulbert), energy independence may be better politics than we think. 92% of Americans think dependence on imported oil is a somewhat or very serious problem (68% say "very serious). That's a bipartisan judgment, too. 70% of Democrats say very serious, 68% of Republicans, and 66% of Independents, so agreement on this is broad.
But picking out problems is easy, getting folks to agree on solutions is not. Well, not usually. In this case, however, consensus seems reached. 93% think "requiring the auto industry to make cars that get better gas mileage" is a good or very good idea. 89% want the auto industry making more fuel efficient cars. Interestingly, only 71% want the promotion of fuel cells and only 70% want tax credits for hybrid buyers. Americans seem most comfortable with the most coercive (to the auto industry, at least) solutions.
In this, the partisan differences are more stark, though not by much. 96% of Democrats and Independents want to raise CAFE standards, while only 85% of Republicans agree. Nevertheless, get 85% of Republicans on your side and 96% of everyone else and methinks you have a majority. Hell, 90% of SUV owners think it a good idea.
For Democrats, this is a gaping, obvious opportunity. Mentioning oil independence isn't enough, progressive politicians should stand onstage and challenge their opponents to sign onto their declarative policies to wean us off foreign oil. Higher CAFE standards means lower gas costs for Americans, less instability in the Middle East, more freedom to criticize Saudi Arabia. It's good policy and, it seems, stunningly good politics. Democrats should be fighting hard to be out front on it. I don't know if it'll make us the "Party of Ideas", but it'll help us be the "Party of Solutions", which I think is just as good.
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Tracked on Jul 6, 2005 10:35:12 PM
I don't know if it'll make us the "Party of Ideas", but it'll help us be the "Party of Solutions", which I think is just as good.
I'd make that: 'which is even better'.
Concrete, rather than abstract. Doing something rather than flimsy wonk.
Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 6, 2005 3:21:01 PM
You know what the other one is, at least rhetorically?
Kerry mentioned it once during his nomination speech and it went through the roof on the focus groups (including Republicans) -- and then it just was forgotten.
The two are connected. Passing stricter CAFE standards and even providing tax incentives to consumers buying very fuel-efficient automobiles are a start. Mass transit is something ignored in a lot of large towns, including my own. There's a point to Amtrak, even today.
The funny thing is that we're reluctant to do a lot of this b/c it supposedly hurts us in MI and OH -- but it helps us nationally so much that it is worth the tradeoff.
Posted by: Chris Rasmussen | Jul 6, 2005 4:16:29 PM
I'd love to see a lot more use of solar power in vehicles. The great thing about hybrid cars (or any other car that is run directly from a battery) is that it should be relatively easy to add solar panels onto the roof and hood of a car, and plug them directly into the battery. This is getting much easier in theory, since new technology is making flexible solar cells possible. And it would even make cars cooler in the hot sun!
Perhaps the government can "suggest" such a thing to manufacturers?
BTW, thanks for the link earlier, Ezra. Much obliged from the Dark Side of things, hehehe...
Posted by: Mastiff | Jul 7, 2005 12:10:16 PM
This one of those things that sounds better than it is. The problem isn't that we're using "foreign" oil. Domestic oil is exactly the same product except maybe without some of the funding for terrorist style side effects. The basic problem is that we use to much oil.
It doesn't really matter where it comes from. Are there any domestic oil companies anymore from whom we could be assured we're not getting any Nigerian crude? It just seems strage to frame the issue in such a way to suggest that domestic oil sources and producers are somehow the solution to our reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
What makes anyone think that some domestic oil company isn't going to hold the US hostage for more money. It's not as though corporate America has been such a good team player lately. I seem to remember something about a huge private pension plan going bust and sticking the gov't with the tab.
CAFE standards are great and more environmental regulation and enforcement is important but I can't possibly imagine that burning some gas that was refined in the good ol' U S of A is going to make one lick of difference.
It may play well in the sticks, but that has more to do with the fact that regular folks don't understand the first thing about world oil markets or environmental policy.
Posted by: Dan Berkman | Jul 7, 2005 2:56:18 PM
Mastiff: A few years ago, it was determined that to deliver enough power to run an electric auto, solar panels would literally have to be the size of a football field for something about the size of a Volkswagen to operate efficiently.
The efficiency of solar panels continues to increase, but I don't think that solar panels on a car would do much more than supplement electricity for things like the radio, running the AC, etc.
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