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Monday, March 28, 2005

Shift to simple energy path urged

Max Booth, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, suggests in a column published today in The Day newspaper of New London, Conn., that a shift to plug-in hybrid cars and alternative fuels is a better path for the nation than ANWR drilling. (Link may require subscription.)

Booth supports a proposal by Set America Free calling for an increase in gas taxes to fund a $12 billion shift in the transportation sector over the next four years. This would shift the auto industry and refueling infrastructure toward hybrid cars and renewable ethanol fuel.

There is much disagreement about the efficacy of ethanol, especially the fact that it may not be the most efficient or environmentally friendly fuel. It takes a lot of energy to produce ethanol, for instance, potentially resulting in a net increase in global warming gases.

But it's hard to argue with Booth's premise that this is a more sensible path than fuel-cell cars, which still lie in the distant future; and also more sensible than ANWR drilling, which will produce only a small gain in domestic oil production -- again at some distant point in the future.

I suspect most Americans would be willing to pay higher gas taxes if it meant getting out from under OPEC's thumb. I certainly would.

Booth says the only obstacle to this shift is political. He concludes: "Absent some political courage in both parties, we will continue to be at OPEC's mercy."