Peace Through Energy Independence
Which US president was notorious for appearing in Playboy, being soft on Russia, talking with evil dictators, downbeat speeches about the state of America, and dirty energy?
If you answered Donald Trump, you would be correct. You would also be correct if you answered...Jimmy Carter.
Ironic parallels indeed!
Let’s focus on the dirty energy. Jimmy Carter was very interested in national security through nonviolent means. Instead of propping up undemocratic oil rich governments that were friendly to the US, Carter preferred that we become energy independent. The US has an enormous amount of energy in the forms of coal and oil shale. Carter called for throwing some serious federal money at figuring out how to use this energy to replace OPEC oil at a reasonable price. The Republicans opposed the plan and were able to hinder it and eventually abolish it entirely.
Fast forward to today. The US is a net exporter of oil. Jimmy Carter’s dream has largely been achieved. The technology is different from what Carter was trying to fund. Instead of cooking oil shale to get the keragen out, or making oil from coal, the US has tapped into hard to extract oil and gas via fracking. The effect is similar – but cleaner than what Carter wanted to subsidize.
Today, it’s the Democrats who want to thwart the extraction of unconventional oil, and the blustery Donald Trump who is cutting Middle East peace deals.
These are awkward times to be a peaceful eco-hippie.
Peace vs. Global Warming
With the US pumping out the oil and even selling it abroad, we get support for the dollar by means other than selling weapons. We make energy cheaper for developing nations. We reduce Saudi Arabia’s budget for spreading its ideology of Patriarchy Extra Strength. Many countries hostile to the US have less money to play with.
All rather nice. But cheap oil and gas from fracking means more CO2 (and methane) added to the atmosphere. This has many people worried. Very worried. It’s enough to get protesters blocking pipelines, filing frivolous lawsuits, and being a general nuisance. It’s enough to inspire Democrats to legislate away the full-sized automobile, fund unprofitable public transport, and even worse authoritarian badness.
There is a solution. A solution which preserves our energy independence while reducing annoying regulations and lawsuits. A solution which puts a damper on wasting these new found fossil fuels and inspiring private research and development into alternatives. That solution is a carbon tax.
For those who have been paying any attention to the news in the past few decades, it’s obvious that we have a chronic federal budget deficit problem. We are not going to fix the problem without some new taxes. We have maybe a half dozen federal legislators who are willing to advocate the spending cuts needed to balance the budget without raising taxes. This is a superminority. Some realism is in order.
Or, a carbon tax could be used to replace Social Security taxes. We overtax labor, and the amount of complexity involved in hiring a single laborer is daunting for the smallest of businesses. Let the gigantic energy companies handle a bit of extra paperwork in return for an enormous tax simplification throughout the rest of the economy.
Important note: in order to tax these fossil fuels without going back to OPEC dependence, we need to include tariffs as part of the carbon tax package. Indeed, in the name of energy independence, make the tariffs high enough so that OPEC countries don’t try to make fracking unprofitable and make us dependent again.
And yes, we need some tariffs on foreign manufactured goods, else the economy will try to bypass the carbon taxes by moving energy intensive manufacturing abroad. Peace Through Protectionism is the principle.
Why We Still Meddle in the Middle East
We have enough oil to part ways with OPEC. Why do we continue to meddle in the Middle East? Is it habit? Is it the Deep State doing what it’s used to doing in order to protect the jobs of civil servants and contractors?
Maybe. But there is another explanation: if we don’t meddle in the Middle East, some other great power will. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have enormous buried treasures in the form of oil and small populations with which to protect their treasures. They will buy high end weapons in order to protect their oil. If they don’t buy those weapons from the United States, they will buy them from someone else. That someone else will be getting a nice subsidy for their military industrial complex.
What if that someone else proves to be hostile to the US?
The energy independence of other nations is also a national defense issue for the United States. This is a good reason to aggressively export energy. If not fossil fuels from fracking, then alternative energy.
Pork laden solar power subsidies don’t look so wasteful if you look at them as national defense spending. The trillions of dollars we have spent in Iraq and Afghanistan make the Solyndra fiasco pale in comparison.
Whether we should actively subsidize solar cell exports is still a debatable policy. But let’s have an honest debate, taking into account the Really Big Picture.