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If not now, when? - Comments

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 1 by Cook@Tahiti

The smart thing for us to do right now is to impose a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax, to be phased in at 5 cents a month beginning in 2012, with all the money going to pay down the deficit.

Yeah, right. As if that's going to happen.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 09:42:57 UTC | #597121

sunbeamforjeebus's Avatar Comment 2 by sunbeamforjeebus

This is a level-headed article which emphasises again the lack of education across this region.Even orthodox Israelis who finish their formal education at 14 to go on to read only ancient texts(did you ever wonder why no jewish dentist,doctor,scientist, engineer etc.,wears the sidelocks and clothes of the extreme hasidic movements) are more educated than the average North African.Their extreme fear of women's emancipation will be even more difficult to overcome if the shift is towards Islam,which in spite of the proclamations from secular Egyptians,is the likely outcome.We in the West must do anything we can to help all these countries to head for democracy.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 09:49:02 UTC | #597122

AfraidToDie's Avatar Comment 3 by AfraidToDie

Interesting concept to start the gas tax hike in 2012 by adding 5 cents per month. If they start it sooner, perhaps congress could then give more tax breaks to the rich so that eventually more of their leftovers could eventually trickle down to the poor and middle class. While we are dreaming, let's go ahead and earmark that money for projects that will help reduce our oil consumption as well?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 10:34:39 UTC | #597124

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 4 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 1 by Rtambree :

The smart thing for us to do right now is to impose a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax, to be phased in at 5 cents a month beginning in 2012, with all the money going to pay down the deficit.

Yeah, right. As if that's going to happen.

But he really is right. No first-term president could get away with it and hope to be re-elected. But maybe Obama in his second term? Is it something a president can do? Or does he have to get it passed by Congress? Might the idea perhaps be sold to them, and to the country, as Socking it to the Saudis? At present the price of gasoline in Britain is more than double that in USA. Even with an extra dollar tax per US gallon, the price in Britain would still be nearly twice as much (That sounds utterly incredible, and I hope I've done my calculation right. If anybody wants to check it, remember a US gallon is not the same as a British gallon. Safest to convert to litres, which are a universal standard).

Richard

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 10:35:25 UTC | #597125

monkey uncle's Avatar Comment 5 by monkey uncle

But he really is right. No first-term president could get away with it and hope to be re-elected. But maybe Obama in his second term? Is it something a president can do? Or does he have to get it passed by Congress?

All revenue and taxation laws must originate in the House of Representatives, which, right now, is controlled by the Republican plutocrat/tea party coalition. So, there probably is no chance of this happening unless Republicans lose their majority in the 2012 election. Even if that happens, I doubt the Democrats would have the balls to do it because the Republicans have brainwashed most of the population into believing that all taxes should be eliminated.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 10:47:13 UTC | #597130

SheilaC's Avatar Comment 6 by SheilaC

I have two female friends in their fifties. Leocardia is black and grew up in Rhodesia under near- apartheid. (It was still Rhodesia when she left.) She learnt reading and writing in her own language (Shona) and English, plus simple maths (no negative numbers), distorted history and religion. I was horrified that she'd got so little chance at an education. (She later studied for 'O' levels in the UK, all in English, which was a foreign language to her, and now she has a university degree and a career.)

Farida grew up in Morocco at the same time. She learnt to read and write her own language (Arabic), even less maths (addition and subtraction, but no multiplication or division) and studied the Koran. Nothing else.

In other words, women in Morocco did worse than black women under Ian Smith.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 10:55:07 UTC | #597131

Dr. monster's Avatar Comment 7 by Dr. monster

yes thats right. i make our UK diesel price to be $8.5/gallon US. if we had US prices in the UK it would be 50p/litre for petrol. I fully support the UK's higher prices.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:03:03 UTC | #597134

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 8 by Stevehill

“Guys (it was only guys we spoke with), here’s the deal. Keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don’t bother the Israelis too much and, as far as we’re concerned, you can do whatever you want out back. You can deprive your people of whatever civil rights you like. You can engage in however much corruption you like. You can preach whatever intolerance from your mosques that you like. You can print whatever conspiracy theories about us in your newspapers that you like. You can keep your women as illiterate as you like. You can create whatever vast welfare-state economies, without any innovative capacity, that you like. You can undereducate your youth as much as you like. Just keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don’t hassle the Jews too much — and you can do whatever you want out back.”

Refreshing honesty.

Irrespective of what America does about taxing fuel, it is a simple fact that America has knowingly enabled, and frankly encouraged, Islamic suppression of human rights. Even after 9/11. It needs saying as often as necessary, until this point is understood.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:12:01 UTC | #597136

njwong's Avatar Comment 9 by njwong

Wikipedia has a page showing the different prices of petroleum in various countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_and_diesel_usage_and_pricing#Typical_gasoline_prices_around_the_world

From the page, the US$ price per litre of 95 Octane fuel in 2008 was:

UK - US$1.98
US - US$0.83

Even if the US were to increase the price by US$0.05, it will still be far lower than what many countries in the world are paying.

That's why I am very astonished by Americans complaining of high petrol prices. The complainers really do not know what citizens in other countries are paying :-)

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:17:01 UTC | #597137

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 10 by Alan4discussion

It struck me as rather strange and funny that the large cabs and clumsy saloons stuck in New York traffic sat polluting the air when smaller or better designed (people carriers/minibuses minis) would have negotiated the traffic better. I am not sure of all the details, but I believe some states have extensive 50mph speed limits - and who needs a 4litre engine to drive at this speed?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:36:50 UTC | #597140

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

In Denmark in the 70's oil crisis the economy got into so much trouble they banned driving on one day of the weekend. As a result people got their bikes out of their sheds and they've never looked back. More cycling is one way to save petrol and make people healthier hence saving even more money.

Michael

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:47:34 UTC | #597141

DeepFritz's Avatar Comment 12 by DeepFritz

The other fuel to consider is Hydrogen, we could use wind power or solar to power electrolysis of water. It might be more expensive to produce hydrogen this way than as a by-product of natural gas or other electricity sources, but there are ZERO EMISSIONS! There is also not a problem with supply. There is however a BIG problems with VESTED INTERESTS.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:56:59 UTC | #597144

PurplePanda's Avatar Comment 13 by PurplePanda

America is also gas guzzler central, so opposition would be extreme. It's partly because they have so many roads that they are maintained to a lower standard, meaning tougher cars, like all those huge 4x4 are a bit more necessary.

Then again, the tax raised could be used to repair the roads...

Also, I haven't actually looked up figures for total miles of road different countries, so happy to be proved wrong on that. I just noticed when I was in the US that a lot of their roads were utter shit - when in California I ended up having to pay a huge fine for the damage caused to the hire car by driving it into a monster pothole.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:04:15 UTC | #597146

Beethoven's Avatar Comment 14 by Beethoven

I am pessimistic : the people who have the legislative power to change American policy are beholden to oil corporations and powerful interests , and those who elect them to positions of power are ignorant uneducated citizens who can be easily manipulated to vote for the establishment.

How can there be any hope?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:11:29 UTC | #597148

cerad's Avatar Comment 15 by cerad

Our addiction to oil from the Middle East will end the day the last barrel of oil is extracted; not a moment sooner.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:16:08 UTC | #597150

blitz442's Avatar Comment 16 by blitz442

Comment 5 by monkey uncle

All revenue and taxation laws must originate in the House of Representatives, which, right now, is controlled by the Republican plutocrat/tea party coalition. So, there probably is no chance of this happening unless Republicans lose their majority in the 2012 election.

I usually don't like to praise Ronald Reagan, but in his time in office he was able to get a lot of his favored mandates and legislation past a Democratic hegemony in Congress.

I believe that it is a cop-out for a chief executive to simply blame the other party for failure to do anything meaningful during his/her term. I'm not saying that Obama himself is doing this, I now hear more and more of this type of talk from his defenders.

A gasoline tax as described in the article is exactly the type of visionary change that we should expect from Obama based on his numerous promises two years ago. Last I checked, he did not run on a campaign that promised meaningful change if and only if he had 8 years of smooth sailing through Congress.

Anyone who knows anything about American politics should know that these days, maintaining a consistent, large majority in both houses of the legislative branch of government is very difficult. Republican control of at least one house during Obama's time in office is not unexpected at all.

If he does not have the will, strength, and cunning to handle the opposition on a consistent basis, then I am afraid that we elected nothing more than a sleek speech-giver.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:20:36 UTC | #597151

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 17 by Agrajag

Comment 12 by DeepFritz

The other fuel to consider is Hydrogen, we could use wind power or solar to power electrolysis of water. It might be more expensive to produce hydrogen this way than as a by-product of natural gas or other electricity sources, but there are ZERO EMISSIONS! There is also not a problem with supply.

There are many parts of the world where water (especially safe, clean water for drinking) is in short supply. I read somewhere that the future competition for water resources may be on the same scale as competition for energy. I cannot find that reference at the moment, but see THIS, which has some relevant information. Just saying... and I live by Lake Michigan. :-/
Steve

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:24:13 UTC | #597152

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 18 by Stephen of Wimbledon

In response to Comment 4

Even with an extra dollar tax per US gallon, the price in Britain would still be nearly twice as much (That sounds utterly incredible, and I hope I've done my calculation right...).

The price of gasoline at the retail pump has been a pretty good rule-of-thumb measure of a country's World standing since 1945 - providing you factor in direct access to oil resources. North Sea oil is running out. As for the other factors ...

Are there really politicians who haven't dreamed of being able to put in place long-term strategies to wean their countries off oil? Britain's last Labour government were certainly an example of exceptionally poor strategic planning in general - and in natural resource strategic planning in particular. But it seems to me that they're not representative?

Since 9/11, and the Russian's (Russia's gas muscle) geo-political posturing, reducing hydro-carbon dependence has surely been an imperative of all governments?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:35:59 UTC | #597153

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 19 by Stevehill

Hydrogen is probably a blind alley: it's highly explosive! It's not hard to make the stuff, but transporting it safely to gas stations, in huge volumes, and those gas stations themselves being able to store it safely without blowing themselves or anyone else up are quite big issues.

Almost certainly (?) the future is electric cars, probably with quite short "commuter" ranges, and some form of public transport for longer trips, hiring an electric car on arrival for tootling about.

Something like the L-ion G-wiz gives you the equivalent of 600 miles a gallon, and could be fully charged in 20 minutes from a 3-phase supply, with a range of 75 miles. I'm not convinced long-range electric cars will ever be practicable.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:43:38 UTC | #597156

DeepFritz's Avatar Comment 20 by DeepFritz

Extracting Hydrogen from water is different to having to drink it. As everybody who has ever done the hook up a battery electrodes experiment in chemistry would remember, it works better if you add salt...

Coming from Australia, I definitely do agree with this drinking water scarcity.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:45:39 UTC | #597157

GPWC's Avatar Comment 21 by GPWC

I'm 100% in favour of moving to alternative fuels. It's a win all round for Western Countries - energy security, reducing imports, environmental gain - so why isn't more being done? I don't really buy the "vested interests" argument - of course there are vested interests in oil companies, but they must be out gunned by all the other vested interests in reducing our dependency on oil - so my guess is that it's more difficult that it looks, especially in the short term world of politicians. There are a lot of bright science types on this site ... answers please.

Secondly, some may think that taxing petrol at the pump will pay off the American deficit, but I doubt it - it's not doing so in the UK or the rest of Europe. No, the money raised will simply be spent elsewhere. It seems to be common amongst democracies that they all run up public sector debts.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:47:31 UTC | #597158

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 22 by Vorlund

If the middle east was dust, rocks and scorpions the other half of the world would probably not give a toss what they are upto. If the arab states used oil revenue to educate their peoples properly and alleviate poverty there would be some sense of justice. Unfortunately oil revenues mean a few vile men have wealth beyond the wildest dreams of avarice while oppressing their own people (via the conduit of islam as Mohammed intended).

The whole westen world needs to break its dependence on the black stuff as quickly as possible. The sooner we develop other technologies and power sources and bankrupt the oil states the better.

Comment 17 by Agrajag :

Comment 12 by DeepFritz

The other fuel to consider is Hydrogen, we could use wind power or solar to power electrolysis of water. It might be more expensive to produce hydrogen this way than as a by-product of natural gas or other electricity sources, but there are ZERO EMISSIONS! There is also not a problem with supply.

There are many parts of the world where water (especially safe, clean water for drinking) is in short supply. I read somewhere that the future competition for water resources may be on the same scale as competition for energy. I cannot find that reference at the moment, but see [THIS(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_resources), which has some relevant information. Just saying... and I live by Lake Michigan. :-/Steve

Hydrogen would have to be made from sea water.

Unfortunately the energy required to break even the weak hydrogen bond means the electrolysis of water takes massive amounts of energy. It has to be done by renewable generation schemes or it isn't viable. Equally to the point oil is more than just energy it is most of the chemical raw materials that we use nowadays.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:49:01 UTC | #597159

josephor's Avatar Comment 23 by josephor

Putting extra tax on oil will do nothing to improve the environment only push up prices that will be passed on to the consumer.The mid-east is indeed going through a transition at the moment,but who is going to have the power; a democratic government or a bunch of Islamic lunatics that want set up a theoretic government ala Iran. I think I could be forgiven for not being terribly optimistic at what is happening at the moment.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:53:07 UTC | #597160

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 24 by Nunbeliever

You can engage in however much corruption you like. You can preach whatever intolerance from your mosques that you like. You can print whatever conspiracy theories about us in your newspapers that you like. You can keep your women as illiterate as you like. You can create whatever vast welfare-state economies, without any innovative capacity, that you like. You can undereducate your youth as much as you like.

Is this guy related to Milton? One could easily think so. He is talking about corruption, intolerance, disempowerment of women, general ignorance, religious fanatism...

...and WELLFARE-STATES as they are somehow related and just as evil. Yes, we have to move towards a more sustainable development. Still, this man is not the one to be trusted with such an important task. Clearly he is a first class moron.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:06:16 UTC | #597162

Naturalist1's Avatar Comment 25 by Naturalist1

I note that all comments here are making the connection of middle east-oil as if this is the only source. Most Americans still think most of their oil still comes from this region when in fact they are getting 40% of their current oil supply from Canada. We are their largest supplier and are doing this by ravaging our environment in the Alberta Tar Sands....currently the worlds largest oil extraction project. They don't get nearly as much oil from the middle east as they did in the 1980s-90s. Our visionless governments of the last 20 years have handed virtual control of our western oil industry to the Americans.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:14:40 UTC | #597164

Notstrident's Avatar Comment 26 by Notstrident

What do you say we choose our battles and topics for discussion as far as this site is concerned, and knock it off with the politico-economic discourse?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:23:30 UTC | #597166

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 27 by hungarianelephant

Comment 11 by mmurray :

In Denmark in the 70's oil crisis the economy got into so much trouble they banned driving on one day of the weekend. As a result people got their bikes out of their sheds and they've never looked back. More cycling is one way to save petrol and make people healthier hence saving even more money.

You are Teratornis and I claim my five pounds.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:27:44 UTC | #597170

stuhillman's Avatar Comment 28 by stuhillman

Comment 17 by Agrajag :

Comment 12 by DeepFritz

The other fuel to consider is Hydrogen, we could use wind power or solar to power electrolysis of water. It might be more expensive to produce hydrogen this way than as a by-product of natural gas or other electricity sources, but there are ZERO EMISSIONS! There is also not a problem with supply.

There are many parts of the world where water (especially safe, clean water for drinking) is in short supply. I read somewhere that the future competition for water resources may be on the same scale as competition for energy. I cannot find that reference at the moment, but see THIS, which has some relevant information. Just saying... and I live by Lake Michigan. :-/Steve

Most hydrogen would be generated from sea-water - that has its own technical problems - but there is plenty of that to go around. Might be a problem for Peru?

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:28:20 UTC | #597172

Tryphon Tournesol's Avatar Comment 29 by Tryphon Tournesol

Totally agree that a shift to sustainable energy is much needed.

Apart from the technical problems there still are with energy transport, me thinks technology will find a way. Just think of how relatively short humankind is in the proces of engineering things, and how much is already achieved (with the amount of knowledge ever growing faster).

Btw..I named the problem as energy transport, but it is 'only' transport AND storage. The earth hasn't got an energy problem 'an sich' (just measure/calculate the amount we receive every day from the sun). Whatever the solution will be, I guess it won't be H2. Harvesting that from water can in my opinion never be viable, because of thermodynamics.

The recently deceased German politician Hermann Scheer has some interesting things to say in this documentary, for those interested: vpro backlight

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:34:01 UTC | #597174

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 30 by hungarianelephant

Have to say, I'm left a bit confused by this piece.

The point of imposing oil taxes is (presumably) to try to get the US off its oil addiction as quickly as possible. Let's suppose that succeeds, and that the US reduces its oil consumption by maybe 25% in a year. This is probably good for the US overall. So far so good.

But the other side of the equation is that, one way or another, the Arab states will have less money flowing into them. Either because they are selling less oil - which isn't necessarily the case - or because of the general downward pressure from the drop in demand from the largest consumer.

In the long run, this might actually be beneficial. Governments which have to tax people to sustain themselves, rather than just relying on oil, are more likely to be under pressure from those people. A sensible economic system will eventually fill the void, most likely one which doesn't waste the talents of its people, and completely ignore the abilities of an entire half of its population.

In the meantime, though, it will leave the ME with a toxic cocktail of dictatorial and heavily armed regimes and an increasingly poor populace which is already undereducated. It seems unlikely that the response of the House of Saud will be to invest in education and hold public burqa-burnings.

Do we actually have a plan to deal with this? It is not as if the US will suddenly be in a position to dictate terms to the Saudis, any more than it does to Bhutan or the Central African Republic, and the realpolitik is that if it doesn't need the oil, it isn't going to care.

I'm all in favour of reducing western (and indeed eastern) dependency on oil, but a degree of honesty about the consequences is required.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 13:41:14 UTC | #597178