Monday, August 11, 2008

American Energy Shortsightedness

Lest there were any doubt about the shortsightedness of America's "energy policy" over the past 35 years since the original Arab oil embargo, see Thomas Friedman's NY Times column yesterday, "Flush with Energy":

"Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America....

"'We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,' said Engel, 'and not one out of the U.S.'”

Say what? Thirty-five out of China and NONE out of the U.S.?! How can this be? Obviously it's not that Americans are unentrepreneurial or lack the technological know-how, so the reason must rest on misguided government policy.

What a pathetic set of policymakers we have in Congress and the White House who cannot see their way past their inane myopic partisan squabbles - even now, with $4.00/gallon gas and the knowledge that America accounts for 20% of the world's demand for oil while possessing just (something like) 5% of the world's oil reserves - to enact progressive legislation to put the country on an energy independent course. In contrast to American policymakers' ineptness, look at what Denmark has done in the past 35 years:

"Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.

"And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: 'No.' It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)

"There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had 'a positive impact on job creation,' added Hedegaard. 'For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.' ...

"In 1973, said Hedegaard, 'we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.'

"Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.

“'I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,' Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. 'The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.'"

In a democratic Republic, it is up to the people to enact policy through their representatives - which means, in the end, that the people get the policy they deserve. Based on our leaders' recent performance, apparently we don't deserve much in America.