Monday, June 27, 2005
Should I buy a hybrid? The Imminent Oil Debacle
In the melee of the AALS conference and family visiting from Toronto this past weekend, I didn't get a chance to report on my afternoon on Thursday, where I was a guest observer at Oil Shockwave. This was an oil crisis executive simulation (i.e., a war game scenario) being run from the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. My friend and fellow Torontonian Robbie Diamond is the transformative and organizational genius behind this simulation. Robbie’s organization, Securing America’s Future Energy (www.secureenergy.org), along with the National Commission on Energy Policy have spent the last few months preparing this media and educational event. There's some very good coverage of the event written by Jon Mintz at the Washington Post, entitled Outcome Grim at Oil War Game. Some thoughts:
1. Although it was a little unclear to me what the value of a war game event was initially, by the end of the day, its force was made plain. The event was an amazing demonstration of social and intellectual entrepreneurship by Robbie, who started SAFE just last fall to create a non-partisan national security agenda that reduces American dependence on foreign oil by relying on existing and available technologies.
2. Just about everyone interested in the nexus between national security and energy policy was there, and the individuals playing the “principals” in the situation room were A-List Washingtonians with extensive government experience. Rand Beers played himself, and at the table of principals was Richard Haass (playing Secretary of State, and whose niece is a friend of mine who was sitting next to me and doing an NYT crossword puzzle; bad Jill!); Carol Browner (former EPA honcho playing Secretary of Interior), Robert Gates (former chief spook, playing National Security Advisor), Gene Sperling (reprising his role as National Econcomic Adviser), and Jim Woolsey, another former spook-in-chief who was playing Secretary of Homeland Security. Various members of the MSM were there, including David Brooks from the NYT.
3. The remarkable aspect of this particular simulation is the vivid demonstration of
how fragile the American energy infrastructure is to both internal and external threats. The word of the day here is and remains VULNERABILITY. With some luck, the media coverage this war game scenario will receive, and the support in Congress for its long-term goals in educating American politicians and reforming current policy, will alter the current course, which looks dangerously unprotected.
4. On a personal note, I had in mind the idea of selling my 2001 Civic (only 28K miles!) and trading-up to a fun sports car this coming year, especially since I'll likely have a 20 minute commute to work everyday, something I dread, instead of my recent commute of seven minutes by foot. Now I'm thinking that, to be consistent with my semi-hawkish views, I should ante up and get a new hybrid car, like the Prius that Ethan and Zoe just drove across America. So, I have a cluster of questions, mostly to Ethan and other Prius-type car drivers: what's it actually like? how much gas do you really save (my father seemed skeptical of the savings)? How did it drive? Was there enough juice to move speedily on highways?
I confess I have, um, a penchant for getting places quickly. I think I'd be better off with the pre-commitment strategy of installing a speed regulator in whatever car I drive; it not only uses less gas, but it will on average ensure that I get fewer tickets and arrive safely.
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I think the secret to getting less tickets is to reduce your time on the road and subject to police scrutiny, by... err... driving, really, really, really fast. Hey, it's always worked for me! :-)
Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 27, 2005 3:44:28 PM
Good stuff, very timely and interesting. I agree these are huge problems. It is disturbing but not surprising to me that the GOP, ostensibly the big pro-sovereignty party, has not done more about this.
Isn't the obvious answer here to greatly increase our use of nuclear power? Yes, there are other drawbacks and security challenges associated with such a policy. But it's the one thing that is clearly practicable. If we don't want to be held hostage to an oil crisis, we need to swallow hard and start building reactors.
And in the meantime, I agree, we should all ask ourselves whether our next car should be a hybrid.
Posted by: Plainsman | Jun 27, 2005 5:19:00 PM