The Corner

What Would Reagan Do?

What would President Reagan do about the price of oil and the fact that we are funding the Islamist terrorists waging a war to destroy us? What would he do about the fact that our economy depends on a commodity largely controlled by such regimes as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela? What would he do about the fact that a disruption in the oil flow could cause a global depression? Bud McFarlane served as President Reagan’s national security advisor. He writes in the Wall Street Journal today:

There are four policy measures to alleviate this threat and in the process lower the global price of oil and dramatically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases:- Accelerate the introduction of second-generation biofuels (e.g. cellulosic ethanol and methanol) which don’t rely on any food crop as feedstock, and should not require any government subsidy.- Establish an Open Fuel Standard. That is, require that any automobile sold in the U.S. be a flexible fuel vehicle capable of burning gasoline, methanol, ethanol or any combination of the three – a feature that costs just $100 per vehicle.- Accelerate the production of plug-in hybrid-electric cars and trucks.- Introduce the use of lighter, stronger carbon composite materials, as Boeing is doing in the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, into the production of cars and trucks. A Pentagon study a few years ago concluded that this step alone could reduce our oil imports by 48%.The most important of these measures is the enactment of an Open Fuel Standard, so that the consumer has a choice at the fuel pump. Unfortunately, without a predictable market, such as would be provided by mandatory flexible-fuel cars and trucks, there is a strong disincentive among investors to risk the capital needed for second-generation alternative fuels like cellulosic ethanol to take off. But without such a mandate, we are keeping ourselves tied exclusively to oil, with all the risks that involves.Some say that these mandates are contrary to free-market principles. But one could say the same thing about seat belts, air-bags and even the FM radios mandated during the Cold War to assure the government’s ability to broadcast nuclear alerts.No one argues seriously that these things have not been in our interest. And just imagine how valuable it would be to reduce the $460 billion we will spend on foreign oil this year, or the threat to our economy that its disruption would represent.We must not let this national debate be distorted by charges that one is either pro- or anti- oil. I believe strongly that Western oil companies ought to be supported in the production of as much oil as they can, for as long as they can. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil is, however, an urgent national security priority.

Clifford D. May — Clifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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