Friday, September 05, 2008

Friedman's Energy Crusade

Thomas Friedman uses his latest column to excoriate John McCain for being a prisoner to Big Oil. The thrust of Friedman's argument is the following:
I am not against a limited expansion of off-shore drilling now. But it is a complete sideshow. By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to “drill, drill, drill,” McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.

Why? Because renewable energy technologies — what I call “E.T.” — are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass “I.T.” — information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.
A few points:

* It is rather breaktaking that Friedman regards himself as such a prophet that he knows what the next great global industry is going to be. Not only does he proclaim to know which industry, but he also pronounces its relative size.

* Even assuming he is correct, so what? How does that justify a government role? Why do we need government subsidies? After all, if this is going to be such a great industry, why does it need help? Investors should already be clamoring to get a piece of the action -- unless of course you believe that government is smarter than the market.

* There is some validity that there are national security concerns surrounding oil. The correct solution is: price out those negative effects and tax accordingly. Then let consumers and the market choose the best energy source. Maybe that will continue to be oil. Maybe coal. Maybe nuclear, wind or hydroelectric. Maybe a technology we haven't even conceived of yet. But please don't let the government pick and choose winners and then shove them down out throats -- we've got enough ethanol already.

Update: Read this.

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