Month 8, Day 15: Shhhhh! Don’t Mention The War!

Time Magazine runs an opinion piece by Michael Mandelbaum, stating that we must reduce the impact of the Middle East on our foreign and domestic policy. Duh. Naturally, the closest he comes to mentioning climate change is in these paragraphs:

Lower U.S. oil consumption would also weaken oil-dependent leaders outside the Middle East who pursue anti-American policies: Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Vladimir Putin of Russia. While the world will not be able to do entirely without Middle Eastern oil for many decades, substantially lowering the amount of oil we use would reduce the region’s significance while shifting the balance of power between producers and consumers in favor of consumers — that is, in favor of the U.S. and its friends. (See what Barack Obama needs to do to improve five international areas.)

The best way to reduce oil use is to raise the price of gasoline. People would then use less of it. In the short term, they would drive less and make more use of public transportation. Over the long term, they would demand fuel-efficient vehicles. At the same time, higher gasoline prices would make renewable fuels like ethanol and electrically powered cars economically viable.

While West European countries and Japan impose high taxes on gasoline, the U.S., the world’s largest consumer, does not. Compared with what the U.S. national interest requires, gasoline is ruinously cheap for Americans. The refusal of the U.S. to charge itself as much for gasoline as is good for it (and for other countries) is the single greatest foreign policy failure of the past three decades.

So I wrote a letter trying to draw a connection.

Michael Mandelbaum has perfectly articulated almost all the reasons that America needs to transform its relationship with the Middle East. He notes correctly that US petroleum pricing polity is self-destructive — by subsidizing fossil-fuel consumption so heavily, we’ve created an economy in which waste is rewarded, with all-too-predictable results. Cleaning up after the past century’s profligacy isn’t going to come cheap, and coping with the effects of global warming (heatwaves, fires, floods, catastrophic storms, oceanic acidification, and drought, to name a few) is going to be very expensive indeed. We (and our children) will be paying the bill for the energy we (and our parents) thought was almost free. It’s too bad that Mandelbaum didn’t mention the looming climate crisis, for of all the consequences of our addiction to Middle-Eastern oil, global climate change is the one which will do the most damage in the long run.

Warren Senders

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