links for 2007-10-10
Paul Krugman Wishes He Was a Happier Man

Clive Crook on CAFE

Clive Crook says:

  • A stronger CAFE is better than what we have now
  • A full-fledged gas tax would be better than a stronger CAFE
  • There is little chance of a full-fledged gas tax
  • I'm against a stronger CAFE

I think I am missing something.

Here is Clive Crook:

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Columnists - Posturing will not save the planet: The website of the Sierra Club, the environmental group, says that “the biggest single step” America can take to reduce global warming and save consumers tens of billions of dollars is to adopt a stricter corporate average fuel economy (Cafe) standard. Legislation that would force carmakers to sell more fuel-efficient cars is being debated again on Capitol Hill. A lot of people think the Sierra Club is right.... Thomas Friedman, the trope-injected megapundit of The New York Times....

Far from being the biggest single step the US can take on this issue, tighter Cafe standards might be the smallest single step – apart that is, from doing nothing, and doing nothing at least has the virtue of being cheap.... Support for a stricter Cafe rule is not a sign of being serious about climate change but just the opposite.... In the end, a tighter rule would make America burn less gasoline and emit less carbon dioxide than otherwise – but not that much less....

It is bad that the underlying cost of Cafe is hidden, but worse that its effects are misdirected. The climate does not care whether greenhouse gases come from Hummers or Priuses.... Make all carbon-based energy dearer and innovation on a wide front will follow, as it must if this problem is to be seriously addressed....

Switching to a lower-carbon economy has a cost. A high tax on gasoline makes it explicit, and is therefore dismissed as politically impossible. But the idea that the Cafe approach is costless, or that its costs will fall entirely on companies that had it coming anyway, is infantile. Given a choice between the ambitious and the fatuous, is it not better to press for the first?

And is the carbon-tax approach really so unrealistic?

Its chances are not improved by calling for inferior alternatives. A lot depends on who speaks up for the idea. Mr Dingell, so criticised by Mr Friedman and others on this issue, is trying to drum up support for a gas tax, a carbon tax and a cap on mortgage-interest tax relief for energy-guzzling houses. He has put draft legislation out for comment. Sure, Michigan’s Mr Dingell is in the pocket of America’s car companies. That does not mean he is wrong.

"Trope-injected megapundit Thomas Friedman" is very good. But methinks Clive Crook is naive. If a high tax on gasoline had a snowball's chance in hell of passing, Dingell would be leading the opposition to it. He is only supporting it because he thinks if he holds it out there he can get some naive individuals like Clive Crook to oppose CAFE, which might pass.

Clive Crook is, I think, still a grasshopper in politics: unable to snatch the pebble from the hand.

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