Quote of the Day: David Frum on How To Get Off Oil

gas prices at four dollars photo

Remember $4.00 gas? How it killed the Hummer and changed habits? Conservative columnist David Frum does, as he hits TreeHugger two days in a row for being....sensible. No wonder he got fired from the American Enterprise Institute. He writes in CNN.com about the tough but necessary slog to get off oil:

President Obama is right: We can take the U.S. off oil. But he omitted to mention the fine print: Doing so will be slow, will be expensive, and will involve huge dislocations in American lifestyles and business.

david frum at work moving files image

David Frum
When politicians talk about energy, they like to talk about magic machines: cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, electricity that flows free from solar panels on the roof.

But when change comes, it will not come through magic. It will come because changes in relative prices have induced changes in behavior. ...

[A] politician who wished to move America away from oil would begin by saying something like: "$4 a gallon gasoline is here forever. Even if the price of oil on world markets declines, we'll impose extra taxes here at home. Make your plans accordingly."

But of course, such a politician would soon be an ex-politician. So nobody ever does say that. What they say instead is what President Obama said this week: It's the oil companies' fault for selling us too much oil too cheaply. It's the car companies' fault for building the cars we prefer to buy.

He concludes by doing a very un-conservative thing with his suggestion:

We want to get the country off oil? Tax it. (Politicians may not wish to say it, but their advisers can at least think it.) Then liberate people to find their own best alternative -- and incentivize industry to develop alternatives that make sense at the new higher price. And be prepared to argue candidly and straightforwardly in the marketplace of ideas why this new tax is right and justified.

If not, then kindly please spare us the grand speeches about how the status quo is the thing you will not accept. It is precisely the thing you are accepting.

More at CNN and FrumForum