Whenever the concluding phrase of a New York Times op-ed column is “if we do it right,” you know you have arrived in Thomas Friedman territory. Has there ever been anyone who knows so much better than everyone else how to do things right than Tom Friedman? Not even Walter Cronkite was this all-knowing, and lots of Enlightened People wanted him to be president. I recall that John Anderson wanted Cronkite as his running mate for his independent bid in 1980. I can’t understand why there isn’t a boomlet for Friedman as the Democratic candidate for president. (Oh, that’s right—they have Obama, The One.)
Today Friedman instructs all of us lessers on how we need to manage the natural gas boom. Hence the lede: “We are in the midst of a natural gas revolution in America that is a potential game changer for the economy, environment and our national security — if we do it right.” Thank God we have Friedman around to tell us how to do it right.
Now, pause here to note that somehow the natural gas boom escaped Friedman’s clairvoyance, but even a genius like Friedman misses things some times, so we can give him a pass. More annoying is how the natural gas boom happened without Friedman’s prior knowledge or approval. After all, as we know from The One, the gas industry didn’t build that: someone else did. As I’ve long argued, if Washington bureaucrats and the environmental movement had known five years ago that the gas boom was coming, they would surely have done something to stop it (as indeed they are now trying to roll it back), and Tom Friedman would surely have added his voice to the chorus saying cheap natural gas was something we had to stop. Friedman himself makes the case today:
But, as the energy and climate expert Hal Harvey puts it, there is just one big, hugely important question to be asked about this natural gas bounty: “Will it be a transition to a clean energy future, or does it defer a clean energy future?”
That is the question — because natural gas is still a fossil fuel. . . there is a hidden, long-term, cost: A sustained gas glut could undermine new investments in wind, solar, nuclear and energy efficiency systems — which have zero emissions — and thus keep us addicted to fossil fuels for decades.
That would be reckless.
So what does Friedman recommend? Continued subsidies to renewable energy sources like wind and solar “for years to come” so that they “remain competitive.” (Memo to Friedman: requiring subsidies means that your business isn’t “competitive.” Just check the NY Times stock price.) And he wants—wait for it—a carbon tax:
Why not a carbon tax that raises enough money to help pay down the deficit and lower both personal income taxes and corporate taxes — and ensures that renewables remain competitive with natural gas? That would ensure this gas revolution transforms America, not just our electric grid.
Wow, there’s a new idea from Friedman. How about a tax on stale recycled ideas from liberal columnists? That might fix the federal deficit right away, while having the added benefit of teaching liberal columnists about the incentive effects of the tax code.
It’s taking all the self-restraint I can muster not to exploit the obvious irony of Tom Friedman writing about gas, since he is definition of a one-man gas glut. Yes, it is long overdue, but Tom Friedman gets this week’s coveted Power Line Green Weenie Award.