Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gas guzzler politics

Isn’t it time for an honest discussion about gas prices and climate change?

During the Pennsylvania debate, the ABC moderators—in one of their rare, less-foolish questions—asked what America was going to do about gas at $4 a gallon.

Clinton immediately cited price gouging by oil companies, and Obama followed up on the theme. He added, correctly, that over the long-term we need to reduce demand for gas by increasing fuel-economy standards, and this lowered demand will reduce prices.

But the paradox that no candidate wants to face up to is that, in the short run, high gas prices are actually part of the solution to another urgent issue: climate change. All three remaining candidates have serious proposals to cap carbon-dioxide emissions, and those trade emission rights.

What would be the proper effect of comprehensive carbon-capping legislation (and the devil is admittedly in the details)? Even higher gas prices in the short term! Try making this connection, however, and those voters who cling to their pick-up trucks—a huge chunk of America, in other words--will get bitter.

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