John Kerry blames the Bush administration for this week's higher gas prices. Kerry's authority on this matter is nil to comic. He is a chronic gas-tax hiker and a Sierra Club-style enemy of domestic oil drilling. Since when has he been in favor of increased oil production? Kerry led the Senate filibuster against oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. What's more, his own energy policy treats higher gas prices as a useful tool in encouraging less gas use. The policy aims not at increased gas production but at decreased oil usage.
"The solution is not in ANWR -- it's in less dependency on oil itself," Kerry said in a 2002 speech. Kerry's policy emphasis on less oil dependency lends itself to higher gas prices. "I see a world," Kerry said, where "our primary focus shifts to cajoling and exciting a new market place for those alternative and renewable energy sources because there are compelling reasons to do so."
Kerry sees a world, in other words, where Americans drive tiny cars and take the city bus. It is certainly not a world in which politicians search for new drilling opportunities so that Americans can pay lower gas prices.
Toward this world without gas, Kerry has proposed to "make our overall transportation system more efficient by reinvesting in public transit and rail." If people take public transportation, he says, a "billion gallons of fuel" can be saved annually. He sees hope in that cities "are expanding rail and bus systems," with "nearly 1,500 miles of new rail lines" planned. "We need to get this rail in place and then go further," he said. "Congress should help states and cities to finance backlogged projects, and to rebuild both intra and inter-city systems to curtail U.S. oil dependence, cut traffic congestion and create jobs."
The specter of "100 million new cars" guzzling gas over the next decade has led Kerry to call for crackpot government schemes to promote "alternative fuel vehicles." Do Americans want to pay higher taxes for "hybrid cars"? Kerry thinks they do.
"Honda and Toyota already sell some hybrid cars, and Ford is developing a hybrid SUV for 2003. Hybrid technology combines a traditional engine with an electric engine to achieve greater fuel economy," he said. "But right now, hybrid engines cost more, and they will until the technology reaches full production scale." Kerry proposes to encourage full production of hybrid cars by giving their makers government subsidies.
He also wants taxpayers to fund "a large-scale commitment to research and development of hydrogen fuel cells, which offer the greatest promise to revolutionize our energy system. The potential is so great and so transforming that all the major energy and auto companies are racing to develop this technology. Fuel cells can power cars, trucks, buses, trains and ships -- and free standing fuel cells can power homes."
Kerry wants Americans out of the "oil age," free of gas-inefficient SUVs (he criticized Trent Lott for his support of SUV "hogs"), tooling down the road in electric cars and using Amtrak.
"I don't believe that we are about to run out of oil," he has said. "But I do believe that the consequences of remaining dependent on oil are too great, too dangerous and wrong for this nation, and that now is time for national action." We should, he said, "power our vehicles on natural gas, biomass and fuels other than oil," and "offer Americans the chance many desire to participate in creating a safer, cleaner, more reliable and secure system of rail and public transportation."
"I know that, for some, it may be hard to conceive of a world where fossil fuels, and especially petroleum, are not the dominant sources of fuel," Kerry said. But the glorious day is coming. "We are pursuing a day when a barrel of biofuel might trade no differently than a barrel of oil, except for one all-important difference: the money used to purchase that barrel of fuel would flow not outside our nation, but to American farmers, suppliers and refiners," he said.
Kerry is doing his best this week to appear troubled at rising gas prices. But in his energy policy, higher gas prices are not a problem but a solution -- a wake-up call for Americans to exit the oil age.
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