Friday, March 31, 2006

Future Fuels
In the wake of Katrina we experienced some over $3 per gallon gasoline and boy did that jolt revive the energy debate. Seems we can't convince ourselves of the necessity of reducing our oil consumption and stemming the creation of CO2 to diminish the advance of global warming. I hear customers cry for more hybrid cars. Frankly, I am not convinced that this is a long term solution but it certainly has some merits and these cars are a good proving ground for future solutions. Saab and GM have a great next-generation hybrid, which will, I understand, use a methanol engine or E85 engine in conjunction with electric motors and regenerative technology. However, none of this will have enough impact until people turn their backs on every aspect of our inefficient and wasteful lifestyles.
Surprisingly little is known in the States about French culture outside of its food and politics. One overlooked aspect of the French is that they are about the stingiest people on the planet. They even have a TV series (Gaspillage!) about waste that is uncovered in everyday life. So, take a Frenchman and dress him as a Yankee and what do you get? Me, the stingiest, most frugal guy there is. When it comes to energy, all my environmental friends would be impressed (if I had any friends) by the way I conserve energy. I drive cars with small, efficient engines--because I hate paying for gasoline. I live in a modest sized dwelling, which is heavily insulated, and every window has an insulated shade, covering an extra layer of plastic that I put on my windows every year. Why? I hate paying for heating oil at any price. I purchased fancy appliances (German and American) for their reduced water consumption and electrical efficiency, and all the bulbs in my house are compact fluorescent. Why, because I think of the hole in the ozone? No, it's because I hate sending money to the utilities.
The point is, I will conserve because it is in my nature to be cheap, not because I am morally motivated. Want to see a push towards energy revolution and a reduction in greenhouse gases? Then make it so financially unpalatable to continue the status quo that normal people (people not as cheap as me) will chose efficiency. This can only be accomplished by a heavy tax on all fossil fuels. I think we'd be amazed at the results. We would reinvent our infrastructure based on demand and the market would respond. We could tell OPEC where to stuff their useless crude. We could do our part as the primary energy consumers of the planet to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases.
For the sake of our children, I hope that we soon see leaders in Washington with the testicular fortitude (no matter their gender) to provide acute energy vision and leadership. When a libertarian miser like me starts calling for new taxes, you know the situation must be dire!

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