Tuesday, April 25, 2006

As Long As We're At It

Here is President Bush's speech on Advanced Transportation Technology from a few days ago. He talks about the billions of dollars that have gone into protecting and expanding wetlands, maintenance of national parks, getting farmers and ranchers to use good land practices, and developing alternative fuel sources, including hydrogen fuel cells for cars, plug-in hybrids, and tax credits for hybrid vehicles. He also discussed the development of flexible fuel vehicles:

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about ethanol. I'm a big proponent of ethanol. I like the idea of America's farmers being able to grow fuel. I like the idea of people saying, my corn crop is up and, therefore, we're less dependent on oil from somewhere. And that's what we're beginning to do. We're beginning to change driving habits of the American people by changing the fuel mix in their cars. Any vehicle can use ethanol with a concentration of less than 10 percent. With minor modifications, cars and trucks can become what's called flex-fuel vehicles that run on a fuel blend called E-85, which is a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

And there are a lot of E-85 fueling stations now, particularly in the Midwest where they grow a lot of corn. But the idea is to be able to use your money to figure out how to use other materials to be able to manufacture ethanol. And we're close to some interesting breakthroughs; we're close to breakthroughs to be able to make ethanol from wood chips and stalks and switch grass, and other natural materials. And it makes a lot of sense if we're trying to get off oil, and it makes sense to use taxpayers' money to research ways to use switch grass, for example, to become a fuel for your automobile. I think it does.
Read the whole thing.

13 comments:

Jeff said...

Tom:

No matter who is president billions will be spent on environmental protection of wetlands, land use, and assorted programs---these sorts of policies were in effect before the B presidency and have very little to do with Bush or even Clinton for that matter.

Any president can give a speech---but the real test of leadership on an issue is what issues do they emphasize and use their political capital on? It seems to me that if Bush were serious about alternative energies like fuel cells or even ethanol---he could take the current crisis in Middle East and our car companies' fiscal situation and exersize his leadership.

Its not that Bush doesn't "care" about the environment---he just doesn't think the federal govt. should be leading the way. That is a respectable position (it is one I don't agree with) but that is what guides this adm's environmental policies.

That is where liberals disagree with conservatives--what is the proper role of govt. (I realize you know this--maybe better than me) but if the current debate centers on Bush's environmental policies and how "green" conservatives are---that is the crux of the issue. As Cheney has said--conservation/environmetalism is a personal viture. Liberals think that govt. must act in concert with industries and lead the way so that environmentalism is not left merely to the conscientious.

jc said...

As for me, I think the problem is in the LEADERSHIP of the environmental movement, not in environmentalism per se.

The leadership of the green left wants to destroy industry, not make it more green. While most liberals don't think this way, the leadership of the movement does.

Regardless of what the left says, there really isn't a corresponding, but opposite group on the right. Industrial leaders don't WANT or WISH to destroy the environment, they just have a different view of "protecting" it at the expense of our lifestyle.

Kinda like how some pro-choice people seem to really be more pro-abortion than pro-choice, sometimes the "Green" leadership seems more bent on destroying industry than on finding alternatives....

Course that is just my take on it.

Jeff said...

JC,

You are expressing a caricature of both the environmental movement and pro choice folks. There are some loonies in the environmental movement but the vast majority of folks who belong to E-movement are white collar types who often work for the very industries you claim they want to destroy.

Tom said...

Jeff,

I agree overall that the current policies are part of a long chain of presidents going back to Nixon (or Teddy Roosevelt, in a more fundamental, but less active, sense).

I'll only disagree with you slightly, but in an important way. The difference between conservatives and liberals is the degree to which they would have government leading the way. Conservatives have been for a government role, but they want to keep it limited; liberals want a more expansive government role. Then again, that is only in theory, since we agree that the current administration's policies really aren't all that different than the previous one's, and so on all the way back to Nixon. In that time, government has played a role, and that continuity suggests that liberal leaders, not conservatives, are the ones who do not follow their ideological committment to even more government action when it comes to environmental issues.

President Clinton was the great example. I'll never forget Bruce Babbitt coming to Ohio U and giving a speech that complained about the people in power not doing anything to improve the environment. Sure, they faced an opposition Congress, but he was Secretary of the Interior for eight years, and, like you say, what issues did he and the Clinton administration spend their political capital on? Not the environment, that's for sure--or at least not the environment to a degree much different from their predecessors or successors.

Part of me thinks we should just go for an all-out push for alternative fuel sources, a la the space program in the 1960s. There is something to be said for inspired leadership on such matters. But I can also understand that the more gradual approach has shown results, is maybe cheaper, and has more flexibility to deal with the unintended consequences of a pretty epic transition. I suppose that like most Americans, I am a supporter of these new technologies, but I'm not real animated about it yet.

One more thing: if most Americans are like me, there are three ways to get us excited about speeding things up. First--and this is most important--so that we won't be beholden to a bunch of medieval, corrupt, destablizing Middle Eastern bad guys. Second, because energy costs too much. Third, to conserve resources so that we can keep enjoying them.

Everytime I see a movie about New York City going underwater when the ice caps melt I get tempted to go tear the muffler off my car for the drive north to start a barbeque on every iceberg I can find. That's just me though.

Tom said...

In regard to the president's speech, it is my understanding that one of the best sources of ethanol is sugar, so as a good environmentalist, I would like to renew my call to conquer Cuba.

greg said...

I wholly disagree with the statement that environmentalists are "white collar types." This is exactly the image that we have to get away from, that is the ivory tower, full-bellied, never chopped a cord of wood, never been hunting, nature-worshiping from my desk image. While "white collar types" are certainly involved and important and don't necessarily fit the description above, "blue-collar", red-necked, hunting and fishing and cutting down trees and farming types are also very, very important (I would argue moreso than white-collars) to further mainstreaming the environmental movement and creating some real and effective change. Furthermore, I don't see why we have to draw the distinction between white and blue collars.

jc said...

Jeff,

I think I was very careful to NOT caricature the PEOPLE of either movement. I was VERY SPECIFIC about talking about the LEADERSHIP of both movements....

My point, and I think I made it clear, is that most Americans really don't want to harm the environment. Most business leaders and manufacturers don't want to destroy the environment, but the LEADERSHIP, or perhaps the most vocal members of the "green" movement continue to portray any opposition to them as "wanting to destroy the earth, dirty the air, and kill babies......"

My point was made very well by Tom, who later wrote, if I may paraphrase, that these people make me want to but a case of hairspray and just release it into the air, just to piss them off....

In other words, their words make me want to do what I ordinarily wouldn't want to do, which is hurt the Earth....

I think that caring about the environment is something that transcends political boundaries, NE liberals, Southern rednecks, midwestern conservatives, Mountainfolk everywhere, SF hippies...we all want clean air and clean water and beautiful trees, but only the far left whackos think anybody WANTS otherwise....

It is their (the environmental leaderships) TACTICS and their GOALS that I oppose, not conservation in general....

Stephen said...

This is a tough call. There are things (I will be vague) that the government can and should do to help the environment. Perhaps we should discuss these things.

greg said...

I agree with Stephen. Discuss.

jc said...

Should the government force things, say in CAFE standards or higher gas tax or tax credits...to get people weened off of gasoline as an auto fuel? Or is this better determined by the market, which tends to ignore things and then move rapidly to make up the ground?

After all the talk of hybrids, high mpg vehicles, and pure e-cars, people still want to buy big cars with low mpg....

As the old marketing saying goes, don't ask people what they want because if you give them what they want, they won't buy it....better to determine what they will buy and then make it....

Ren said...

Sacrifice more virgins.

greg said...

What Ren said.

Mark said...

On the subject of making individual moves comes TerraPass, where you can sponsor clean energy projects to offset the emmissions you make driving (and get decals to prove your efforts).

It seems that my Mazda3 is quite low on the emmissions scale, entitling me to the "Hybrid" TerraPass for just $29.95/yr.