A Small Step?
To say that Tom Friedman does not exactly like the energy bill that recently passed the US Senate would be quite an understatement:
When you watch a baby being born, after a difficult pregnancy, it is so painful and bloody for the mother it is always hard to tell the truth and say, â€œGosh, that baby is really ugly.â€ But thatâ€™s how I feel about the energy legislation passed (and not passed) by the Senate last week.
The whole Senate energy effort only reinforced my feelings that weâ€™re in a green bubble â€” a festival of hot air by the news media, corporate America and presidential candidates about green this and green that, but, when it comes to actually doing something hard to bring about a green revolution at scale â€” and if you donâ€™t have scale on this you have nothing â€” we wimp out. Climate change is not a hoax. The hoax is that we are really doing something about it.
No question, itâ€™s great news that the Democrat-led Senate finally stood up to the automakers, and to the Michigan senators, and said, â€œNo more â€” no more assisted suicide of the U.S. auto industry by the U.S. Congress. Weâ€™re passing the first bill since 1975 that mandates an increase in fuel economy.â€ If the Senate bill, which now has to go through the House, becomes law, automakers will have to boost the average mileage of new cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, compared with about 25 miles per gallon today.
But before you celebrate, pay attention to some fine print in the Senate bill. If the Transportation Department determines that the fuel economy goal for any given year is not â€œcost-effectiveâ€ â€” that is, too expensive for the car companies to meet â€” it can ease the standard. That loophole has to be tightened by the House, which takes up this legislation next week.
But even this new mileage standard is not exactly world leading. The European Union is today where we want to be in 2020, around 35 miles per gallon, and it is committed to going well over 40 m.p.g. by 2012. Ditto Japan.
Obviously, that is quite sad. On the other hand, what matters right now is that America is actually doing something. For a long time, Europe was willing to act, Europe showed that it was willing to do something about global warming, and now, finally, America joins Europe, at least to a degree.