ENERGY IDIOCY….I’ll confess that I’m a little tired of columns expressing outrage about our bipartisan temper tantrum over $3 gasoline ? where were these guys last year when Dick Cheney’s energy industry giveaway passed? ? but there’s certainly no arguing with the underlying charge:
Most Republicans, constrained by an ideological resistance to federal regulation, have always opposed tougher mandates. But achieving better fuel economy was once a passion of Democrats. In 1990, 42 of the Senate’s 55 Democrats ? about three-fourths ? voted to require automakers to reach 40 mpg by 2001. That bill drew 57 votes overall, but failed amid opposition from President George H.W. Bush and a Republican-led filibuster.
Idiots. But then there’s this:
Under pressure from the auto companies and auto workers, Democrats have retreated ever since. President Clinton didn’t seriously try to raise fuel economy standards. Last year, a proposal from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) to require a 40-mpg average for cars by 2016 drew just 28 votes; only about half of the Senate’s 44 Democrats voted yes. Those voting no included every Senate Democrat considering a 2008 presidential bid.
Idiots. Mileage standards work. If we had passed that bill in 1990, oil consumption in the United States would probably be 10% lower than it is today at virtually no cost to the economy and no inconvenience to consumers. That’s a savings of about a billion barrels of oil a year ? and there are other things we could do to double that number with only modest pain.
(And ANWR? If Republicans were willing to act like grownups on the efficiency side, I’d say we should just open the damn thing up. It won’t make a lot of difference, but at the same time, it also won’t cause very much damage.)
Of course, the best time to have done those things was ten years ago. But the second best time is right now. It’s not too late to grow up.