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John Stossel
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Who Needs Energy Independence?

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When you gas up your car, do you think that you're doing something evil? After all, I'm told that burning gasoline helps "murder the Earth," not to mention fills the coffers of terrorists and despots.

So we must move away from oil. Al Gore says, "The future of human civilization is at stake."

But I need the gas. I need to drive. I need electricity to light my home. What can I do? Is there an alternative? There is, I'm told.

"What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home? We have such fuels," Gore says.

"In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses."

In 10 years, he says, we can get all our electricity from these carbon-free sources.

Global warming hysteria is just one reason Gore and others push for alternative fuels. We're also told that America's goal should be energy independence. Today, we do buy oil from some very nasty people: dictators in Venezuela and the Middle East. What if they cut us off? That fear is one reason almost every president and presidential candidate — from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama — promised to end our "intolerable" reliance on oil imports.

When Nixon was president, we imported 25 percent of our oil. Since then, our "leaders" have wasted billions on subsidies for alternative energy. The result? Today we import nearly 70 percent of our oil.

Terrible as that sounds, I say, "So what?" Interdependence is just fine! And journalist Robert Bryce, author of "Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusion of Energy Independence," agrees. He'll be my guest on "Stossel" tomorrow night (Fox Business Network, 8 Eastern, and again Friday at 10).

Bryce points out that while Saudi Arabia and Iran are oil exporters, they are gasoline importers. "If even Saudi Arabia and Iran are energy interdependent, why wouldn't we be?" he says (http://tinyurl.com/ydypdur). "Energy interdependence" is just a way of saying "division of labor" and "comparative advantage."

Our biggest foreign oil suppliers are Canada and Mexico (http://tinyurl.com/7ldt).

Do they threaten us? Venezuela or Iran might, but they need the oil money. They would hurt themselves if they tried to cut us off.

Even if they did try, we'd still get their oil. All the world's oil ends up in the same bathtub. The dictator sells to someone who sells to someone who will then sell to us. Chasing energy "independence" is pointless. Free trade is better. It makes us richer and more secure.

Yet among those pushing for subsidies, along with Gore, is someone smart: oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens. He'll be a guest on my TV show, too.

You've probably seen Pickens in his television ads, saying: "I have a plan! We can unleash wind power to free up America's natural gas to power our big trucks and bus fleets. And save billions of American dollars."

But if we can save billions by using wind and natural gas, why do he, Vice President Gore and today's Congress need our tax dollars? If there is a good alternative to oil, it won't need subsidies. The free market will simply make it appear. Let the entrepreneurs compete.

Pickens' commercials say: "Over $700 billion are leaving this country for foreign nations every year. That's four times the cost of the Iraqi war. We need action."

But that's misleading. The $700 billion leave America for a reason. We get useful oil for the money. Trade is a win-win situation. There's no comparison with destructive war spending.

Pickens' website carries videos about how good government-subsidized windmills are for towns like Sweetwater, Texas (http://tinyurl.com/y9rx72g).

Windmills may be great for Sweetwater, but that only looks at what's seen. What's unseen are all the people who are hurt because they are taxed to pay for Sweetwater's windmills. That money could have gone elsewhere. It's the broken-window fallacy identified by 19th-century French free-market economist Frederic Bastiat (http://tinyurl.com/a94gd4). Maybe Fox will let me break a window to make the point.

Pickens is wrong. We don't need government to choose which fuels to subsidize. The free market is the way to go.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Who Needs Energy Independence?

You're right, Pickens is dead wrong! When you look into his history why wouldn't he push his product into the government mandates and laws if it sells more NG! In August of 2008 when it was reported that he canceled his deal with GE with his order for 2400 wind turbines I knew right then and there this man had another agenda! In subsequent reports posted on his website the Senator from Alaska pointed out his great plan to rip off the american tax payer in paying for this Wind Farm where he in return would collect 25%! This man is not out for the American public his voice died when he postponed the Sweetwater deal on installing all those wind turbines. To save face he's come back and put in an order for half the number of turbines - hmmm you would think a man who spent 55M on his website campaign would have put his money where is mouth is and just built some turbines! But he hasn't even done that to my knowledge... not unless he can get someone else to foot the bill! I thought like so many others on his website he was on the right track but now I can see he's just out to make another billion or two pushing his NG as fast as he can into public opinion! Mr. Pickens is not out to help anyone but is own bank account!

With new studies from the Bonniville Power Administration showing, after a year long study, that wind turbines only produce 22.8 percent of potential why would anyone buy into a 25 years old idea like this? Even in Europe the best results is 18- 29% depending on the manufacturer! So imagine his surprise when he purchases a 2.5M wind turbine and his ROI (return on investment) is only 22.8 percent. Then he can take his 25% out of that and be right back where he started pushing (N)Gas!
Comment: #1
Posted by: Phillip
Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:09 AM
Stossel I am simply astonished how absolutely wrong you can be about absolutely everything.
You are really stupid guy.
What amazes me even more is that you actually get paid.
I don't give a crap what Gore says about fossil fuels etc.
And I'm not interested in what you say about what Gore says.
Renewable pollution free energy sources are a tremendous idea compared to oil for about a million reasons (that's called a metaphor Tom).
And there's not one good argument that they're a bad idea.
And let's not mention the oil that we depend on belongs to a bunch of Middle-Eastern Arabian kings who hate our guts and extort all the money possible from every drop...and that the American oil cartel presence in Islam is the reason Islamic Jihad and Muslims target and hate Americans....and we're fighting two wars with 10s of thousands dead and maimed Americans already.
Unless you believe pollution and war are good for the planet Earth and its inhabitants...and I'd like to see you write an essay about that.
P.S. Please excuse the typos...Creators.com doesn't pay me.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Oracle
Tue Jun 7, 2011 11:12 PM
Sorry about the typos. I don't get paid.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Oracle
Tue Jun 7, 2011 11:13 PM
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