Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ron Brownstein On Energy Policy

The L.A. Times occasionaly runs a thoughtful article, and this one from Ron Brownstein makes some good points:
America already bars oil imports from Iran; but if Iran withheld some of the 2.7 million barrels of oil it exports daily, the U.S. would suffer from the rise in international oil prices. (Oil prices are already rising just because of Iran's threats to close the spigot.) And for that we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Since the first oil shocks in the 1970s, the U.S., inexcusably, has allowed its dependence on oil imports to grow, from about a third then to about three-fifths now. Fuel economy for America's vehicles is virtually no better today than it was 15 years ago, according to federal figures, as small fuel-efficiency gains in passenger cars have been offset by a shift toward gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles. Washington hasn't raised fuel-economy standards for passenger cars in two decades.

More expensive gas will encourage somewhat more conservation and greater demand for fuel-efficient cars. But Washington can't rely on the hidden hand alone to solve the problems it has been too timid to tackle. The federal Energy Information Administration, in its most recent long-range projection, estimated that market pressures would increase automotive fuel efficiency only modestly over the next quarter-century. As a result, the EIA projects that by 2030, the U.S. will import 62% of its oil, up from 58% now. That means another generation of subsidizing — and remaining vulnerable to — regimes that threaten our security.

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