The $4 a gallon bargain

Columnist : Albert Paschall

by Albert Paschall,
Senior Commentator, Lincoln Institute

I’ve found recently that I’ve got a lot more in common with Governor Ed Rendell than I thought I had.  There’s always been hairline, waistline and eyesight but now I have a real reason to feel akin to Pennsylvania’s head cheerleader.  Like me the Governor is techno-challenged.  He doesn’t like computers, email or using the Internet.

He recently told a Philadelphia newspaper: “I’m about 10 years behind the technology revolution.”  He joked that if he needs something off the Internet he calls an old family friend.  Aides confess that emails that he must read are printed out for him.

While he usually speaks extemporaneously, something that’s caused Senator Obama to cringe more than once, when the Governor wants to craft a special speech he handwrites it.  “There’s something about putting your own words with your own hand on paper,” he said, “that’s better I think then putting them on a machine.”

But there is one technology topic that really revs the Governor’s engine: energy.  He’s got more ideas on energy efficiency than a Kentucky Fried Chicken stand has wings.  Solar, geothermal and hybrid are all words he buzzes every day.  He’s got Pennsylvania taxpayers committed to spending $650 million on his Alternative Energy Investment Fund with $80 million earmarked for solar panels and another $25 million targeted for wind mills.  At $4 for a gallon of gas energy is the hot topic. Last month Rendell promised the Democratic National Convention that if elected president, Senator Obama would dump $4 billion on auto makers to increase production of hybrid technology and that someday that would free us from all imported oil.

One can’t argue with the idea of liberating us from our oil enslavement.  But since 1973 when Americans sat in long lines at gas stations during the infamous Arab Oil Embargo no government has accomplished much of anything in terms of ending our addiction.  If anything federal policy has the oil producing states floating in American dollars.  In turn they use them to buy our national debt.

It’s virtually impossible to build a new refinery or nuclear plant in this country.  Pennsylvania is rich in coal and while “clean coal” technology gets lip service it’s too easily dismissed by the clichés of the environmental left.  Those same environmentalists applaud Pennsylvania’s law that requires state agencies to buy hybrid cars.  One wonders where those same enthusiasts will be when their dead hybrid batteries begin to back up in landfills.  Ethanol production has been great for farmers but American consumers already whacked at the gas pump are now finding that this misguided mandate is fueling higher food prices.  The two combined could trigger the ultimate threat to our economic health: a spiraling round of inflation.

That’s the $4 a gallon bargain.  For 35 years the government has done virtually nothing to free us from our addiction to foreign oil.  What is worse is that in the muddled politics of the Middle East, Uncle Sam is the pusher and we’re the junkies.  Now our addiction is breaking us and threatening all of our futures.  Four bucks a gallon has finally bought on the realization that the governments have been asleep at the energy switch for a generation.

Like Governor Rendell’s thinking on personal technology his ideas on energy are ten years behind reality.  We’ve had enough of the desperation of government subsidies, bailouts and bureaucracies.  On the track we’ve been on someday the price that our children and grandchildren will pay in freedom and economic opportunity is too horrible to imagine.  It’s time for the kind of thinking that has made America the envy of the world.  Governments had nothing to do with Edison’s electricity, Bell’s telephone, Ford’s assembly line or Bill Gates’ Windows.  The energy answers are out there.  Unfettered by government the creativity and imagination of the private sector will solve our energy challenges.

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.