McCain has taken a page from Bush here. While saving 18 cents a gallon would be swell, it does absolutely nothing to tackle the larger issue of rising gas prices.
On one hand, it's an issue of supply and demand, and no matter how politely W begs his Saudi friends not to raise prices, he's not really in the driver's seat. It's not as though the writing wasn't on the wall in the 70s, when people could buy gas only every other day and lines went down the block. But we frittered away decades that could have seen substantial investment into solar and other alternative technologies. Well, that's the past.
Biofuels are widely touted, but the ripple effects need consideration: what does this do to food prices when commodity corn goes into our gas tanks? And: is corn ethanol really cost-effective, or should we be investigating lesser-discussed ethanol sources such as algae? And: shouldn't we broaden the notions of energy production beyond simply what will propel our cars, to include solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, and other energy sources? The fact is, we've got our backs against the wall now.
Estimates on how long the world oil supply will even last vary, but clearly there is a shift occurring that sees oil-dependent countries at the mercy of oil producers. In this new world order, the OPEC countries are getting what they can while they can. Putin and Chavez, among others, are very canny as to the value of petroleum and natural gas, and are jockeying to maximize their power. We've seen the early effects of $3.50/gallon gas on food prices, airline bankruptcies, etc., but things are not going to get better soon.
I like some of what Obama's said on energy, and I spoke with someone here at the Commonwealth about a building project that was a test pilot program. One of the state buildings invested in a micro-film insulation of all its windows and saw an HVAC cost drop (I forget the exact percentage) a significant amount... I want to say it was as much as 25-40%. These up-front "green" costs, insulating homes and buildings, replacing inefficient cars and HVAC and other equipment, could be a real start in reducing consumption. The less consumption, the less power Putin and the Saudis have over our economy.
And that, to me, is the deep concern, not the cost to fill up our cars, per se.
One side note before I forget. Twinkie: Deconstructed
is my current crapper reading. It's disturbing and awe-inspiring, to know how the common Twinkie (as well as other processed food products) come into existence. It's an exercise in overkill, each chapter discussing a particular ingredient, to the point that I can't distinguish how polysorbate 60 is made, or how it's different from this gum or that whatever. Take corn, or soybeans, or some mineral, or petroleum, superheat it, combine it with this acid and that emulsifier, swirl it through some piping, dry it using super high heat until it's a powder... It's all ingenious, and makes the prospect of eating a Twinkie about as appetizing as eating gravel. Point: many, many food products use petroleum as their base. Artificial colors, the hexane used to make soybean oil, and even the vitamins used to fortify flour... come from petroleum. If you add up every such vitamin supplement and food product that derives from petroleum, that's a pretty substantial chunk. Laugh at Finny's sustainable living stuff, but if we were all eating local, rather than having our meals travel an AVERAGE of 1300 miles, and eating real foods, not processed, that'd be a nice oil savings, and we'd see food prices drop, IMO.
As to Iraqi production, it accounts for less than 2% of our overall usage. The recent insurgency of Sadr's forces in Basra has NOTHING to do with "getting at the US forces" or "trying to unsettle the Maliki regime." That's media gloss, in a nutshell. The real issue is oil, and money.
An estimate 40% of all Iraqi oil produced is stolen or diverted. Sadr, like the other "militia" heads, is basically an Al Capone in a land of gangsters, and our forces are like Chicago cops. These militia are trying to be the top dogs, and don't care a whit about Maliki or the US except insofar as they interrupt their version of running whiskey. If they can rip off oil, and sell it on the black market, that's the power they want. Who wants to be a parliamentarian and get blown up when you can really run things in Iraq? I don't remember Gen. Petraeus addressing that particular issue, but then again, he's carrying out a misguided strategy that doesn't comprise an understanding of many of these nuances. Right guy, wrong gameplan, as it were.
Whoever is elected needs to get us the fuck out of Iraq, but needs to ensure that civil war does not rip the country apart, and needs to ensure that some equitable and sustainable oil production system is in place. IMO... US oil companies need to bite the weenie. Fuck Exxon-Mobil. If we want Iraq to stand on its own, it cannot be ripped off by the Sadrs or the Exxons of the world. The proper model for oil production is what Mossadegh proposed for Iran in the 50s (had we not overthrown his socialized oil production, Iran likely would not be the radical state it is today), or its modern equivalent, Chavez's Venezuala. I know, that doesn't sound appealing, but:
1. It's Iraq's oil, not ours.
2. If Iraqis are the wealth recipients of their resources, rather than partial recipients, they're going to be much more vested in protecting that revenue and stabilizing the government.
3. US troops out plus oil money in, equals insurgency and civil disturbance down?
4. If Iraqis can self-govern and reduce the theft by Sadr and others, production will continue to increase. How much this affects prices here, I don't know but... The Iraqis need money now, they need to rebuild, and they need to catch up to the wealthy OPEC states. They will over-produce to over-compensate, and that will drive prices down.
Some info from Barack's site:
Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025: Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.
Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology: Obama will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies. Obama will consider whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology.
Support Next Generation Biofuels
Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.
Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol refineries help jumpstart rural economies. Obama will create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in their biofuels refineries.
Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Barack Obama will establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard to speed the introduction of low-carbon non-petroleum fuels. The standard requires fuels suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by ten percent by 2020.
Increase Renewable Fuel Standard: Obama will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.
Set America on Path to Oil Independence
Obama's plan will reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the equivalent of the oil we would import from OPEC nations in 2030.
Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will double fuel economy standards within 18 years. His plan will provide retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that they can build new fuel-efficient cars rather than overseas companies. Obama will also invest in advanced vehicle technology such as advanced lightweight materials and new engines.
Improve Energy Efficiency 50 Percent by 2030
Set National Building Efficiency Goals: Barack Obama will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He'll also establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal.
Establish a Grant Program for Early Adopters: Obama will create a competitive grant program to award those states and localities that take the first steps to implement new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.
Invest in a Digital Smart Grid: Obama will pursue a major investment in our utility grid to enable a tremendous increase in renewable generation and accommodate modern energy requirements, such as reliability, smart metering, and distributed storage