Friday, March 02, 2007

Black Gold, Texas-T

Something about the energy industry, and oil in particular, seems to get the Republicans' statist-instincts going. No wonder so many on the Left (and around the world) sincerely believe that the Bush family's endeavors in the Middle East are linked to some quest to control the oil resources of the region. Without any doubt, when it comes to oil, Republicans have a bad record. Well, that is unless you think Fabian-socialism is a good thing, anyway... When Sony decides to cut back on the production PS2 in the weeks before Christmas (an obvious market failure....), is it necessary to procure federal intervention into the video game market? Scarcity's a bummer. Jerry Taylor, CATO's energy policy wonk, has penned a good piece for NRO questioning the Republican desire to micro-manage energy policy from DC. Here is a taste:

So when President Bush argues that we must reduce our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, the most natural response is, "Why?" He is either demanding that we surrender our evaluation of the relative worth of gasoline in favor of his (no thanks), asserting that we are too stupid to know what we want(wrong), or positing that there is some external cost associated with gasoline consumption, not reflected in its price, which leads us to consume more gasoline than is optimal.

One can now mow down virtually the entire Bush energy program without getting into the weeds regarding the specifics. Massively increase the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (price tag, $50-60 billion)? Why? What evidence is there that market actors are underinvesting in oil inventories?

Should we massively increase the size and scope of renewable energy subsidies? Why? What evidence is there that market actors are underinvesting in renewable energy?

Must we mandate better fuel efficiency for cars and trucks? Why? What evidence is there that consumers are underinvesting in conservation?

Bingo. In my fleeting moments of clarity, I often wonder, "do Republicans, self-described conservatives, really believe in the free market?" Or, rather, "is that just another talking point employed to assuage those of us with no real political home?"