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We all know that oil is a limited resource. We also know that America is hugely dependent on the stuff, and that much of it comes from foreign sources, which puts the U.S. in some awkward positions, politically, economically, and strategically. Most of us also know that emissions from gas-powered vehicles contribute heavily to air pollution, which, no matter how you look at it, is hardly a good thing.
As a result, America and many other countries are looking toward a future powered by alternate forms of energy. But as two stories from Texas illustrate, weaning ourselves off oil is going to be a painful process -- one that may often pit state against country, neighbor against neighbor.
First up: the state of Texas has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block a set of restrictions recently imposed on tailpipe emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. As you might recall, the EPA has ruled that greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health, and as a result, the agency is now obligated to regulate them, as per the Clean Air Act. Since vehicles account for 23% of America's total greenhouse gases, the EPA has opted to tighten restrictions on tailpipe emissions, beginning in calendar year 2012. The EPA is also imposing include higher standards for fuel economy.
Lawyers for the state attack the EPA's assumptions about global warming, arguing that the agency's findings are based on "scientific errors and fraud". Texas governor Rick Perry drops the science argument and focuses on economics, insisting that the EPA's "misguided plan paints a big target on the backs of Texas energy producers and the nearly 200,000 Texans they employ." By that logic, fuel efficiency of any sort is bad for Texas, since it diminishes the consumption of oil/gas by drivers. (FYI, California is also opposing the EPA regulations, but for somewhat different reasons.)
In the other story, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens spoke yesterday to attendees at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida, preaching the importance of ditching big oil and moving vehicles to natural gas. According to Pickens -- who drives a natural gas-powered Honda Civic -- the price of oil could jump from its current price of $77 per barrel to $300 or $400 within ten years, which would spell disaster for America and the auto industry. That's why, as we reported last June, Pickens is pushing a bill in the U.S. Congress offering a $65,000 tax credit for the purchase of vehicles that run on natural gas.
As you've probably already noticed, there are numerous flaws in the arguments of both Texas and Pickens....